Hackney WickED art prize winner mixes art and science


Whoever says you can watch too much television clearly hasn’t met the winner of this year’s Hackney WickED art prize. Photographer turned painter, Mick Dean proves that sometimes the best ideas happen while watching TV.  

After falling asleep in front of the box one evening, he awoke to a programme in which Professor Brian Cox was explaining the second law of Thermodynamics.

While these words might make most people glaze over, Dean’s post-sleep sluggishness evaporated and he tuned into what Professor Cox was saying.

“To my amazement I realised it was the core subject of what  I have been painting for years and had struggled to put into words. I never realised there was a scientific term that fully described my practice… Entropy.”

Art meets science at Hackney WickED

“Cats and Dogs”, a depiction of the effects of erosion on road surfaces; Credit: Mick Dean 

Entropy is a lack of order or a gradual decline into disorder. This is often used to describe the transitional states of the universe from the Big Bang to how nature breaks down components back into their original state.  

“I paint man-made things that are slowly eroding and breaking down. I try to document the movement from low to high entropy… this process fascinates me. ‘Man versus nature’, with the inevitable triumph of nature if left to its own devices.”

Dean says that he finds the process particularly beautiful among the most commonplace objects.

“I have always loved old things that demonstrate this – the wonky chair, the crumbling wall or the rusting anchor. Hence my fascination with ageing roads and footways.”

One if the areas I found very productive was the banks of the Thames… the way it was crumbling away was my main source of fascination,” he said.

Of course it’s not just the finished result that demonstrates Dean’s fascination with the process of entropy. In fact it wouldn’t make sense if the artistic process didn’t demonstrate this state of transition too.

“Adding solvents to oil paint will cause separation of the oil from the pigment, a small demonstration in itself, of entropy in action.”   

Promoting Hackney Wick artists

Prize-winner Mick Dean beside one of his works; Credit: Mick Dean

Dean was one of four artists shortlisted for the Hackney WickED art award. The prize was established in 2008 to provide platform for Hackney residents to showcase their work.

“It was a surprise –  the way it started was we have open studios here and this area is a big artist community which started because there were lots of empty studios that nobody wanted and then the Olympics came along and property prices went up and now everybody wants to live around here so the rents are rising and it won’t be long before I have to leave.

“Unit G, the gallery I’m exhibiting in, came along, they were looking for new talent, they wanted stuff about the East End. They are promoting anything that’s made in the East end.  I fitted in because I painted the East end quite a lot.”

Hackney WickED Directors said, “We’re overjoyed to be creating real opportunities for artists based in Hackney Wick, introducing artists to galleries and curators, which enable them to raise their profile, put together shows of their work outside the area in well positioned galleries such at Unit G.

Hopefully it will lead to increased exposure and ultimately sales of their art. We’re looking forward to creating more opportunities like this going into the future.”

Mick’s exhibition “Street Entropy”  can be seen at Unit G Gallery. It opened on Thursday 3 March and ends on 31 March 2016.

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  1. We were lucky enough to be at the Gallery on the opening night and although we are long standing friends over the years, Mick’s work never ceases to amaze, and the show more than lived up to his wonderful standard. Truly great images which carry his very personal story of Urban decay but with a beauty that is timeless

  2. It’s said that an artist should continually interigate their subject something Mick has done with a forensic eye over the years as a successful painter. In his latest show Street Entopy he once again digs deep into his area of interest. Namley decay.

    A wonderful show Mick and a wonderful and enlightening speech from your good self at the opening night of your exhibition.

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