Looking back at thousands of years of artistic expression, we can observe the ubiquitous presence of animal representations—whether as companions, deities, labourers, or raw materials. In his essay ‘Why Look at animals’ (1977) the critic and artist John Berger looked back at a time in man’s relationship to animals in which “the parallelism of their similar/dissimilar lives allowed animals to provoke some of the first questions and offer answers”. However, the shared existence and mutual gaze between the two were severed in the West with the onset of nineteenth-century capitalism. This dissociation has persisted, evolving further with the advent of modernism and into the 21st century.
Further on in his essay, Berger discusses the reciprocal gaze shared by humans and animals, describing the animal’s gaze as one which “scrutinises him across a narrow abyss of non comprehension”. It is this space of uncertainty and digital slippage that David Haines seeks to open up in his recent series of drawings of dogs. For Haines, the refracted image serves as a perpetual response to the digital realm. Whether mirroring the refraction in the layered glossy glass surfaces of screens or constructing a space that challenges the binary essence of the digital, with seemingly pulsating images claiming multiple spaces simultaneously, he invites the viewer to enter into a nuanced space constructed of physical materials (graphite, paper). In doing so, he seeks to question the very nature of this binary form of representation and the resulting isolation it carries with it—isolation from each other and isolation from the natural world.