Jim Dhillon has always made art.
“My parents have a photograph of me with my fingers in my mother’s oil paints when I was about a year old,” he said, “I am impelled by the urge to use my mind and imagination to create works of art.”
Dhillon grew up in Michigan. After high school, he was in the Marine Corps for two years, and then he began studying art at Loyola University in Chicago. He completed his studies at Gonzaga University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine art. He has lived in the Spokane area ever since.
He calls his style abstract surrealism with minimalistic tendencies. Using mixed media including found objects, Dhillon creates thoughtful images of repetitive patterns, blocks of color, contrast, texture and curious markings that look almost like an ancient language. To the artist, his work is a sort of language. “It’s vocabulary of the mind,” he said.
One piece, “Probable Cause,” which hangs in a private collection, began as Dhillon was searching for wood pallets behind an appliance warehouse so his daughter-in-law could make a composting area in her garden.
“As I was choosing the best pallets, I found a 4-by-6-foot piece of particleboard with all kinds of interesting tool marks on it,” he said, “I saw it as a painting waiting to happen.”
Another piece, “Fossil,” began as an art project with Dhillon’s son’s second-grade class: small items were nailed and glued to a large piece of plywood that was then painted. The piece hung in the main hallway of the school for at least 10 years, until they did some remodeling and asked Dhillon if he wanted it.
“I went and got it. Noticing some items had fallen off or were loose I decided to strip it bare, primer over it and do a totally new painting. As I took the items off I noticed it was leaving impressions in the plywood, glue and paint. I simply enhanced what I discovered.”
Twenty years later, one of the second-graders Dhillon worked with attended one of Dhillon’s exhibits with his wife and recounted the experience. Then they purchased two paintings.
Over the years, Dhillon, 61, has had a plethora of odd jobs while always maintaining a working studio. He has shown his work at many venues including the Main Market, Barili Cellars, the Elk Public House, the Steam Plant, Barrister Winery, the Spokane Club and the Kress Gallery.
Currently he works as a counselor for Catholic Cemeteries of Spokane and makes art in his home studio at the edge of Long Lake and in a large outbuilding on his son’s (one of four) property a short distance away.
“I simply enjoy creating, taking that journey. I can do anything with total freedom. Art gives my life unlimited depth.”