For Wittgenstein, green is not a second Art color, but one of four primary colors. As we move from yellow to blue, we reach a point that is markedly green, not a blue that’s yellower or a yellow that’s bluer. As he notes, “For me, green is one special way-station from the colored path from blue to yellow, and red is another.” The paintings of Iowa City based painter John Dilg live fully within this anomalous primary, a truth both elemental and compound. 

Dilg begins his paintings with a sienna ground and charcoal drawing. Thin, successive layers of opaque colors are then scumbled over the surface of the canvas. The warmth of the underpainting cuts through a restrained palette of cool yellows, blues and greens. This method of layering effectively ages the painting and the resultant image always lies just beyond reach, existing in a fog that proves the spectrum from green to blue to be infinitely reducible. And it is in reduction that Dilg speaks of memory. The modest scale, intimate touch and simple imagery convince us of his sincerity as he constructs “images (that) both recollect and recompose important memories that, though personal in premise, could be applicable to anyone.” Dilg’s paintings are a peculiar recounting of stories of the land he lives in, memories both deeply personal and collective. 

As an avid collector, Dilg has an impressive reservoir of paintings from untrained artists. Imagery from this collection is woven into his work. For example, some paintings begin with imagery from a found painting that is studied, reworked in small thumbnail sketches and transferred to the canvas once it has taken shape. This process transforms the original image into a newly formed icon by releasing it of the weight of its own history. His personal history is mixed with that of his sources, all of which are stripped down to an essential quality that strives for the archetypal. Dilg’s convincingly personal paintings tell a universal story based in multiple histories. 

Fourth Primary consists of eight paintings that highlight the clandestine role autobiography plays in Dilg’s work. His story is almost exclusively told through reductive, iconographic landscapes. The world reflected back in the Claude glass, a tool once used by traditional landscape painters, is highly reduced in both color and detail. This reduction correlates to Dilg’s way of processing imagery. He uses painting to capture small moments that are both distinct and archetypal. Dilg’s personal story is central to his work, but rendered indistinct through blending it with his sources.