February 9, 2023

An insight into an artist’s thinking: Sentinels. A series of paintings

This series of paintings, entitled ‘Sentinels’, was produced over a period of 20 months using acrylic paints and Indian ink. The motivation behind them was the desire to portray elements of a narrative that has been turned over, contemplated and amended for many years. Visually the aim was to produce unique and arresting images that are linked stylistically and thematically. The images represent snapshots of events or moments in a specific space and time, but their true nature and meaning are ambiguous by design.

The paintings begin by lying flat and having liquid poured onto them. Certain areas become chaotic, whereas others receive minimal attention. This helps to create the sensation of depth later on. Due to the nature of liquid the images are essentially a balancing act of random events and deliberate actions at their early stages. Giving definition to shapes created by the liquid leads to the discovery of random textures and objects that slowly tie the chaos and order together as they emerge. These cannot be anticipated in advance, making the paintings exciting and unpredictable to work on.

Objects with specific perspectives are introduced, often in a black and white doodle style that adds detail, but appears unreal and flat due to the lack of colour and form. These particular elements represent the real conceptual beginnings of these paintings, as they once constituted frames of a story that was to become a graphic novel. As time progressed and the focus shifted it became obvious that they needed and deserved colour and texture, and that way to proceed was to paint them. The storyline changed and grew as the paintings developed an identity of their own. As the visuals intensified they pushed the storyline into an underlying position that would take investigation to reveal further.
The neutral, sentinel-like figures represent a sense of manipulation and observation throughout the series, however their form, actions and motives are unclear. These figures give the paintings a narrative focus, and a sense of character, benevolent or otherwise.

Several of the paintings consist of multiple panels. This extends the panorama of each scene, whilst leaving certain elements to the imagination. The painted edges add to the perception of a storyline that exists outside the boundaries of the canvases, and allow the paintings to be viewed from different angles without losing clarity or coherence. Under-worked areas, intermingled with areas of thick, tactile paint remind the viewer that these are not virtual images. Their size, and the field of vision created by the use of multiple canvases enhance this sensation. The paintings are all linked, and each can be seen an alternate view of this chaotic madness. Their striking visuals make them ideal for viewing individually, or as a whole series.
The paintings can be viewed online – www.ajdawsonart.co.uk

by Andrew Dawson


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