2016 is the second year Space Artworks has taken part in the Out of Sigh Out of Mind exhibition series, held in various venues across Edinburgh, and part of the wider annual Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Our exhibition this year 'Space and Time' features work from Edina Donald, Michael Boyd, Rosy Long and The Hive in the upstairs gallery, with Michael Dawson's pieces in the lower gallery - the first time we have shown his work. Looking at Dawson's art, one can be overwhelmed by the intricate layering of meaning and imagery. Letting the allusions and unconscious connections wash over you is part of the enjoyment of such art, but it can also be intriguing to delve into some of the processes and intention behind these effects. Here we share some of what Michael has to say about his work.
An expressionist artist, who produces vibrant multilayered works in a variety of mediums, Michael Dawson's work comes from a place of what could be called considered spontaneity. His aim to convey a 'universal experience' through his own life, that is his personal emotional responses to what he sees and hears around him, requires loose planning, if any. Rather than working with a 'set agenda, theme or subject matter', his preference is to allow his experiences of life to make their way on to the canvas as the mood takes him, more a 'stream of consciousness' than predetermined act of creation.
'I mostly just start with a mark, word/phrase (https://twitter.com/busytinsnips) or small drawing/illustration and see where it takes me.
I just filter things from my life – memories, experiences from an internal and external world that I inhabit. There is often no linear or narrative approach, (I am a big image blender!), but a cascade of colour, image and word.
I am a simple conduit! I like the beginning of Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood – “I am a camera with its shutter open"
Even when the finished work is quite literal, the next will be in stark contrast.'
Yet, simultaneously, to make a piece 'right' consideration is required. Michael states that:
'The works are often layered over time, it’s a process of adding and subtracting – I sometimes lay a colour/image or phrase down and then cover it or partially conceal it.
I can return to add or subtract sometimes years after I thought the piece was finished. Mostly they all evolve over time, [only] a few are done rapidly.'
By working on multiple pieces at once, returning to them with new thoughts and images over a period of months or years, a balance of spontaneity and consideration is thus struck.
'I often work on at least 4 or 5 simultaneously. These can vary in size from A6 to one-meter square and often larger. As my work is usually very varied so this way of working is good because I can flip from theme to idea as different works evolve and morph.
I also carry a small ideas/sketchbook with me to jot down raw feelings, ideas and words that find a home on paper and canvas.'
This technique of spontaneous 'image blending' and considered addition and subtraction over time helps explain the vibrancy and balance of Michael's work. Going behind the scenes a little more, we were curious to hear more about the physical side of creation, and asked about the materials he most liked to use:
'I absolutely love the basic, low tech’ Chinagraph pencil. The texture it creates on paper is simply ravishing!
It is also known as a grease pencil and is a writing implement made of hardened coloured wax.
It is useful for marking on hard, glossy non-porous surfaces such as porcelain, glass, rock, polished stone, plastic, ceramics and other glazed, lacquered or polished surfaces, as well as the glossy paper that is used for photographic printing, x-rays, and for marking edits on analogue audio tape and film.
It is also used to label theatrical lighting gels. It is often used as a construction or handyman's marking tool as it rarely scratches the surface it is used on. It may be used to mark a wet surface. Due to its ability to write on glass, it is often used in chemistry labs to mark glassware.
Its versatility is astonishing – every home should have one!
I also love Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic – very creamy and lush'
Michael's enthusiasm for the 'basic low tech' Chinagraph speaks to his love of the physicality of making art. Combined with his perceptive world view, wide ranging lens of interest and stream of consciousness technique, this passion results in some incredible pieces of art. We at Space Artworks are delighted to be exhibiting his work for the entire month of October, and look forward to hearing some visitors' responses!