John Dawson is a cheerful, good humored sort of person who says "I only visit reality as a tourist." And that attitude combined with a huge talent and refined skill is what makes John Dawson a world class artist!
John Dawson has worked as a professional artist for over 40 years He was accepted at The Art Institute of Chicago, had private lessons at that time and since has had more than 60 one man exhibitions across the country from New York City to San Francisco. In addition his work has been shown in approximately 50 National and Regional Competition Exhibition Art Museum, El Paso Museum of Art, Oklahoma Art Center, Ulrich Museum of Art, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Tucson Museum of Art and the Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. Recently a major 30 year retrospective show of Dawson's works was hung in the Mesa Museum of Art.
John's work has been extensively reviewed in various publications including Art News, Artweek, South,west Art and more. He was also selected to be included in the book World Artists 1989-1990 edited by Claude Marks, published by H.W. Wilson.
According to the man himself, “The ebb and flow of life…I've always been interested in the human drama. It's an endless subject. The real search is how to express it.” And express it he does!
Since Dawson’s art spans a 40-year career, his work is arguably one of this century’s most outstanding, exploratory, dramatic, mysterious oeuvre of work. The artist’s life interest in reading and his ability to fully participate in the lost art of conversation renders him one of the most distinctive, articulate, and incisive societal commentators in our world.
Of interest is Dawson’s selection for the title of this exhibit at James Ratliff Gallery. In part, work to be presented represent fragments – large 30 x 40 works on paper which exist as the result of Dawson’s intentional choice to draw, paint, tear and reassemble while painting over the top of the rearranged pieces of paper. Admitting “it’s a little sacrilegious”
When Anthony Hopkins powerfully acted the role of butler in the film version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, there was always an undercurrent of fragility in the persistence of passing time literally dressed up in the character’s lifelong faithful career of his charge. The quiet awareness of “what lies beneath” was synonymous with and embedded in daily estate life. So, too,
John Dawson’s historical body of work boldly presents his artistic explorations of the character inside the “portrait”
Dawson is satisfied with the time/timelessness images “because they serve the purpose of what I want to say about my work”. To view Dawson’s work is a challenge for the art novice or connoisseur. In one painting, Dawson can include images evocative of 16th century Rembrandt, abstract expressionism and, as he states, “combine these things together”. Besides illustrating the artist’s command of traditional art forms, the purposeful combination of techniques reinforces continuity of ongoing motifs of time and timelessness.
The artist also likes to take different routes while treating of his continual thought processes. Literature continues to illustrate the artist’s thoughts, e.g., Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. Dawson confesses he, himself, is “pretty inventive” while musing what “is left to do after 40 years”. Whatever he does choose, Dawson believes any painting “should be visually interesting”
Dawson reflects, “Whatever idea I have to start with is never going to literally come across the way I originally conceived it.” A Dawson work is always an engagement with mystery, with incompleteness, just like life. I think that’s why Dawson’s paintings are timeless in time. A work by John Dawson is the independent third kind of reality which exists as a medium between the viewer and the artist. What is seen depends on the perspective of life experience both bring to it. Patricia Ratliff elaborates: “To me there is never anything which isn’t completely influenced by our personal history and DNA, each of which contributes to ( if not creates) our life perspective. It seems like the “conditional appreciation of art” is “conditioning”
Influences to the artist in earlier years are explained: “There are a lot of books I read when I was in high school that I did paintings from: Oliver Twist, The Old Man and the Sea, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, explains Dawson, “. . .things like that. I won an award -I think it was a national award - for The Invisible Man from H.G. Wells. I would often use movies or themes from history. I’ve always loved history and literature: Hemingway, Faulkner, Dickens, and the like. There are not too many people I know who are better read than I am. Lately, I’ve been reading Jack London’s The Sea Wolf."
To converse with John Dawson is to experience contemporary American culture in real time. Dawson just might be the most unusual artist in America. The frontier is now global, and that’s where Dawson’s work belongs! What’s next for him? Europe!
For further information, please contact James Ratliff Gallery: 928-282-