New “Absolute: Distraction” Painting: In Pursuit Of Memories From Germany

New “Absolute: Distraction” Painting: In Pursuit Of Memories From Germany

by Daric Gill

{Feature Video of Painting Process Above}


“Absolute: Distraction”: Oil paint on cherry. 20 1/2” x 13”. 7.20.19.

Absolute: Distraction is my newest painting, made while on a three-month residency abroad in Dresden, Germany. Each day I breathe in the city, people, and their artwork. I’m reminded of how precious and beautifully ephemeral time is. It has me considering the delicate balance that’s required in creating memories; the interplay between the care-free absorption of the moment while being fully aware of its short-lived nature. “Absolute: Distraction” looks at that pursuit and the complexities of preserving those special moments. Read on below for the full article and image gallery.

{ Click To Skip Article & Go To Image Gallery }

The Poppy Maze
Picking poppies by the Elbe River

As a child, I lived next to a man with a maze in his back yard. Narrow walking paths were mowed through a garden of tall poppy flowers. My young mind imagined it was a stately garden behind a castle in a far off country. Each summer heavy crimson pods would weigh down on a forest of spiked stalks. A sea of red would burst open, revealing heavy black ovaries inside. By snapping off the crimson heads one could encourage sticky white milk to ooze out. The milk could be crushed with the bright red petals to become a sappy homemade dye. After a few summers of sneaking over into the garden, my friend and I found that the heads of the poppies, when thrown like grenades, left bright red ‘bloody’ marks upon impact. We had a war of poppies that epitomized everything wonderful about summer. In our jubilation, we cleared the poppies of their red. To this day it is still one of my fondest memories.

… It is also one of my most sobering.

My neighbor was an aging man who’s pride was caring for a garden of flowers; one of the last legacies of his deceased mother. Once beheaded entirely, the poppies never again grew, as they had no way to spawn. After the chaos settled between him and my parents, the garden was mowed down completely and grass was planted. The mysterious secret garden came to an end that summer and has never returned.

Each side of this story has weight. On one hand, the innocence and euphoria of living in the moment have created a special moment in time. On the other, it has ruined the pursuit of quiet preservation. This is parallel to building and saving memories. I learned that when one side pushes forward too far, the ballet is unbalanced. Absolute: Distraction looks at special moments and asks just how to balance this dance without toppling over.

The Carpenter


As I planned for this trip, I fully anticipated using found remnants of old furniture as a material for my paintings. I even brought a small palm sander from the US. But after several weeks of scouring the city and finding only IKEA furniture, I explained to my Dresden gallerist the situation. She sprung up from our lunch and we dashed with no warning to a local carpenter’s studio. His assistant answered, understandably dubious of the request. She sent me away to call back at a later hour.

That evening, I returned. A soft man answered. With seemingly no knowledge of my earlier visit, he hesitantly invited me in to look around. His workshop was heavenly and smelled of sawdust and old tools. His skepticism was deserving, as neither of us knew exactly how I arrived at his doorstep (or what the protocol was for this situation). I’m not sure if it was the 103-degree heat or my equally stifling bad grasp at the German language, but eventually, he gave into my need for a piece of hardwood. After watching him mentally weigh out the cost of giving a perfect stranger pre-worked wood, we both agreed that a wildly warped piece of cherry with beautiful figuring would be quite sufficient.

Truth be told, I fought the urge to true up both sides and make this wood flat again. After contemplating for a bit, I found that its curve mimicked the trials to find it. Just below the rough milling was a lovely figure to the grain. I simply sanded it down, removed the bark, and started painting. The graciousness given to me by the carpenter is much appreciated.

It seemed only fitting that I removed the pithy bark with a Swiss Army knife I brought from home. This exact knife was with me when I beheaded the poppies as a child. I earned a blister on my right hand, whittling away at the edges exactly like I would have done as a kid. It all came flooding back. It was so inefficient and I loved it.

The Castles

Lingnerschloss, castle & vineyard in Dresden, Germany

Fast forward 30 + years, you would find me riding a bicycle along a river in Europe. To my right, young couples and small groups of friends nestle together on blankets along the river’s edge. They drink regional wine from glasses and romance each other as the sun sets on the Baroque city in the background. To my left, a high stone wall stretches for miles with corridors leading up a hill to the grounds of three castles. Unlike in the states, castles and palaces are all over the place here. Older people sit on park benches and watch as I ride by.

Just then, I noticed a small set of poppies among the flora between me and the river. I plucked the voluptuous red flower as I did so many years ago. Years of academic study has taught me the symbolism of this flower. It intersects with the symbolism from the relationships and experiences in my personal life. The war of poppies begins to play in my mind.

A large sculpture guarding Castle Eckberg

The following day, I would board a random city tram with no agenda and no plan. When 90% of the passengers deboarded, I took the hint and did the same. Appearing to be at a fancy gala or private party, I took a risk and paid a fairly pricey sum to enter the event.

A narrow path opened into a botanical courtyard. Live music could be heard from every direction. As the night unfolded, a series of paths led through wooded estates, ending at a series of castles. Each castle had its own party where well-dressed people ate German food, drank local beers and wines from the local vineyards, and danced to music from around the world. A VIP party poured out from the third and final castle. Failing to enter, I gathered with the hundreds of other normal patrons along the balcony overlooking the vineyard and the river below. I was at the castle above the poppies from the night before. A celebration of fireworks exploded overhead. For this American, who had no knowledge of what was in store, The Dresdner Schlossernacht  (Dresden castle night) closed a circle 30 years in the making. I was in a real maze of paths, in a real secret garden, in a real faraway country.

{Image Gallery}

Special thanks to:

Special Thanks to Greater Columbus Arts CouncilGalerie Raskolnikow, Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen

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"About the Greater Columbus Arts Council: Through vision and leadership, advocacy and collaboration, the Greater Columbus Arts Council supports art and advances the culture of the region. A catalyst for excellence and innovation, the Arts Council funds exemplary artists and arts organizations and provides programs, events and services of public value that educate and engage all audiences in our community. The Arts Council thanks the City of Columbus and the Ohio Arts Council for their continued support."
"About Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen: The foundation initiates, realizes and supports projects. It awards scholarships and buys works by visual artists. Their goals are the development of new forms of artistic expression and the sustainable transmission of contemporary art and culture. The maintenance of cultural heritage and the promotion of young artists are also part of their tasks. It supports projects of national or national importance and contributions to international cultural exchange. With its own projects, the Cultural Foundation is responding to social and cultural change in Saxony and neighboring European countries. It develops programs to support cultural dialogue with European neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in North America and East Asia. For additional information, visit

2 thoughts on “New “Absolute: Distraction” Painting: In Pursuit Of Memories From Germany

  1. Your story is great and so is the painting inspired by that childhood poppy war. I do recall that act, which did not endear you to your neighbor.


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