Bob Dylan takes fans off The Beaten Path in this London exhibition

The Nobel Prize Laureate and folk icon turns his hand to painting for ‘The Beaten Path’

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Bob Dylan may have been hogging the headlines for his Nobel Prize win recently, however, it’s his paintings, not his poetry, that are the subject of a new exhibition in London. Consisting of 200 recent paintings that express his vision of the United States, its landscapes, and its culture, ‘The Beaten Path’ will be on show at the Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair until December 11th.

“It’s a great honour for us hosting the exhibition and for him to have received that honour at the same time”, gallery director Paul Green told AFP.

Bob Dylan started in the visual arts in the early 1960s, when he created the album cover of Music from Big Pink by the Canadian band, The Band, and carried on until today, with many successful shows behind him.

‘The Beaten Path’ takes its name from the show’s portrayal of the singer’s journey across all four corners of the United States, from its megalopolis to its immense desert plains. “The common theme of these works having something to do with the American landscape – how you see it while crisscrossing the land and seeing it for what it’s worth. Staying out of the mainstream and traveling the back roads, free-born style. I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past”, explained the artist in an introductory text of the exhibition.

As such, in San Francisco, Dylan chose to immortalise a seafood merchant rather than the typical Victorian houses or skyscrapers which he “chose” not to see. “The San Francisco Chinatown street stands merely two blocks away from corporate, windowless buildings. But these cold giant structures have no meaning for me in the world that I see or choose to see or be a part of or gain entrance to”, he said.

All of his paintings show a much friendlier America than the one presently showing in the news. We can see Manhattan Bridge, with its imposing metallic structure lying between two blocks of red brick and Roy’s Motel, on the famous Route 66, which Dylan brought back to life using an almost comical and quick brush.

The exhibition is well organised in a few open rooms. As well as his latest work, we can also find pieces from Dylan’s previous shows: ‘Mood Swings’ (2013), a collection of iron-work, and ‘The Drawn Blank Series’ (2010), a series of paintings on canvas. In one of the rooms appears a short video of the artist’s life accompanied by a selection of Dylan’s best tracks, adding a nostalgic element to the visit. One of the main works of the exhibition, ‘Endless Highway’, magnificent and grand in size, could be seen as an allegory of his life as an artist: always on the road, between two cities, between two hotels.

However, it’s the close and personal character of the pictures that proves more interesting. The singer-songwriter is known for having the cold and distant attitude of a man that has all the answers but will not share them. His mind is too lyrical to speak with common words. Dylan’s use of perspective- grounded, looking up at the scene comes across as an invitation to join him on his tour around America and to see the world as he sees it; we are no longer outsiders, but colleagues.

The Beaten Path is at the Halcyon Gallery until 11 December 2016.
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