Three is company for enigmatic artist Dixon
Juan Carlos Noria is a confluence of cultures and contradictions. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Noria moved to Ottawa, Ont., at age seven where he spent his youth skateboarding in the concrete streets with a paint can in hand, fleeing police at every corner. Touring the world as a professional figure skater with Disney on Ice later in life, Noria developed an obsession for lines and grace.
Asked whether he agreed with being called a confluence of cultures and contradictions, Noria responded candidly, “I was born in Venezuela…hot blood…and moved to Ottawa…a place known for its colder blood. I believe in respect, but I practice graffiti, a disrespect. I believe in good health, but I paint with enamel. These are some of the contradictions that are me.”
Noria has been painting for most of his 40-plus years and said that he’s just not satisfied being one person or, more accurately, one persona. Noria, aka Royal, aka Dixon, said that the reason he needs three personas is he’s trying to find a balance.
“Royal is angry. Dixon is more pretentious, but they both speak on my behalf,” Noria said. “I just can’t be one person…I tended to confuse a lot of people with the different styles. Royal and Dixon were born of a need to not confuse people. I tend to need them both to keep balance in a commercial art world.”
Using a blend of socio-political and pop culture images, and angry, yet humorous, themes, Noria manages to tow a line that, like his three faces, work antagonistically but symbiotically in a manner best articulated by Josh Flanagan.
“It’s confrontational, but it’s not offensive in any way,” Flanagan said at a recent exhibition, where Noria’s work was featured (and the artist tuned via Skype). “He’s a good graffiti artist – he’s true to the form and I find it is political, but it’s very subtle, not preachy.”
Brandon McVittie, co-owner of Artguise Gallery where the exhibit was hosted, agreed with Flanagan’s assessment. McVittie said that what compelled Artguise to host Noria’s art at the gallery for a third showing was that his work has been ubiquitous in, and synonymous with, the Ottawa graffiti scene for over a decade. Noria’s pieces, he said, were always groundbreaking, innovative and consistent.
“He has real continuity as a voice,” McVittie said. “Ideally, if you’ve seen one or two of his shows and you go to a different city and you see this style, you would say, ‘This is Dixon,’ or you would ask that question, ‘Is this Dixon?’”
McVittie said that what was most impressive about Noria’s canvasses was that they sold to people as young as 24, and as old as 65. He also pointed out that what he appreciated in Noria was that he is true to his art, and the man in the mirror.
“What Juan has always been driven to do is live his life like a real artist – he’s very passionate about artwork,” McVittie said. “In all the places that he’s decided to make his home he has set himself to making art the most important thing in his life. He’s all about keeping it real.”
Jason Vaughan, McVittie’s partner, said that when Noria first introduced the two of them to graffiti, it wasn’t a scene taken very seriously and, for the most part, was relegated to the fringes. He said, however, that it was men like Noria, the first graffiti artist to have a show at Artguise, who opened doors in Ottawa and gave the art form a platform.
“He opened up a world – a voice really – that we didn’t know too much about and that was by virtue of the fact graffiti was often seen as vandalism,” Vaughan said. “What the guys that we show that do graffiti understand is that graffiti is about mark-making. It’s about leaving behind an image, leaving behind a skid mark, leaving behind a little bit of like, ‘Killroy was here.’ And good graffiti still holds true to that, whether it’s on a canvas or on a wall.”
Story by Remi L. Roy