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James Rawson early work predominately focused on paper collage and painting but would later move into abstract works using non traditional artists mediums like wood and charcoal. Rawson’s material-driven process is deeply minimalist in appearance, resonating with enigmatic structures and ideal sculptural forms. His works recall the influence of Minimalism and the Gutai avant-garde movement. By placing emphasis on the process and act of artistic creation, rather than a stylised compositional narrative, Rawson’s art is as conceptual as it is physical.
He removes the artist’s gestural hand while simultaneanously conveying the physical, corporeal reality of the art object itself. Grounded with the burnt embers of charcoal, there is tactile and textured nature to the artwork, where there remains a presence a human quality of the artwork, with viewers often tempted to reach out and interact with each piece directly.
James says: “Charcoal has always been a fundamental artist’s material, it was even used by our earliest ancestors to make cave art, creating a feeling of connection to our history when you use it.
However, we also have a much greater spiritual connection to this material. Charcoal is almost pure carbon and we are carbon-based life forms. Charcoal and humans are one and the same, two carbon objects. You could think of them like black mirrors, what you are really seeing is a representation of yourself. You are the artwork and the artwork is you.”
JAMES RAWSON PAINTINGS: THE SANCTUM SERIES
If we look at the paintings, primal matter takes on the form of omnipotent structures, using the familiar to create an alien landscape. Deprived of information we are left to wonder if what we see has been placed or revealed by time. We must ask are these structures a metaphor for the mark of man upon the earth, alluding to our lasting impact on our planet, or a metaphor for the man himself.
Drifting monuments symbolise lost faiths, but allude to our continuing worship of material wealth. Pyramids represent worship but at the same time hierarchy. As well as referring to materialism and social hierarchy the pyramids here serve as a deeper metaphor for people as individuals and all of mankind. The veins in the marble being representational of our own. In this sense, the Pyramid, man and civilisation could be thought of as one.
Perfect structures stand firm, misplaced against the rugged landscape that threatens to swallow them. There is always a sense of impending doom for these objects. We are given the sense that we are being granted a window into their last moments.
His latest works see him return to his first love of painting. In these new works Rawson unleashes a flurry of flora into geometric diagrams. Revealing kaleidoscopic shapes to be a device to reclaim the connections between abstraction and the natural world. The artist's exploration of the still life, with flourishing curvilinear forms and abundance of lush colour, stems from the Northern Renaissance.
Link to James Rawson Interview
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