Dean was born in Canterbury and studied at Falmouth School of Art 1985 - 1988 before entering the Slade School of Fine Art, 1990 - 1992. She was nominated for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in 1998, and awarded the Aachen Kunstpreis in 2002. She has also been short-listed for the Preis der Nationalgalerie fuer Junge Kunst at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. Dean undertook a residency on the DAAD International Artists’ Programme, Berlin in 2000 - 2001.
Dean’s first solo exhibition, The Martyrdom of St. Agatha and Other Stories, was held jointly at Galerija Skuc, Ljubljana and Umetnostna Galerija, Maribor, Slovenia in 1994. She has had many important solo shows since, including: Galerie ‘La Box’, Ecole Nationale de Beaux Arts, Bourges in 1995, Foley Artist at the Tate Gallery in 1996, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam and The Drawing Centre, New York in 1997, ICA Philadelphia in 1998, Sala Montcada de la Fundació ‘la Caixa’, Barcelona in 2000, Tate Britain in 2001, Museo Serralves, Portugal in 2002, ARC, Musee d’Art Modern de la ville de Paris in 2003 and De Pont Foundation, Tilberg, Netherlands in 2004. Dean’s prolific group showings include; Mise en Scene, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1994, The British Art Show 4, London and tour 1995, State of Mind, Centrum Beeldende Kunst, Rotterdam, 1996, At One Remove, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 1997, Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1998, New Visions of the Sea , National Maritime Museum, London, 1999, Media City Seoul 2000, Seoul Metropolitan Museum, Artifice, Deste Foundation, Athens, Sammlung des Kunstmuseums Winterthur, all 2000, Directions, Hirschorn Museum, Washington, 2001, Subreel, Galleries Contemporaines de Musées de Marseilles, 2002, Stazione Utopia and Ritardi e Rivoluzioni, 50th Venice Biennale of Art, 2003 and Remind, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2004.
Dean initially trained as a painter and now works in a variety of media. She is perhaps best known for her 16mm short films, in which the specific qualities inherent in film making are given central importance. Dean’s films are haunted by abandoned architectural relics which, at their time of construction, promised much in design and purpose. These lost buildings often seem to embody outmoded or excluded systems of belief. In their formal qualities, the completed films often reference other art forms, especially painting. Dean also works with video, drawing, photography and objects, as well as sound, as in Trying to Find the Spiral Jetty, 1997, a 27 minute CD recording of the conversation between Dean and a male accomplice as they attempt to locate Robert Smithson’s legendary land sculpture by car in Utah. Only the latter half of the recording was actually made on site. The first half is a later cross-Atlantic re-enactment of the conversation in the car with sound effect post production added. The soundtrack seamlessly merges fiction and fact, paralleling the mythical status, yet neglected reality of Smithson’s near-submerged work.
Dean’s practice occupies the transient moment somewhere between fact and fiction. It is pervaded by a sense of elusiveness, a search for something which actively exists as much in the imagination as anywhere else.
De la Moore la Hirst: 60 de ani de sculptura Britanica (From Moore to Hirst: Sixty Years of British Sculpture), The British Council and the National Museum of Art, Bucharest 2005