Untitled / Missing
Brian Dawn’s ‘Untitled/Missing’ series of watercolours are beautifully controlled marks with the freedom of a stain. The fluidity of the tints, from sanguine lips, to underwater greens, to the black of an eye shadow or a state of anxiety. The figures that flow from Dawn Brian’s hand, are torsos and heads that embrace the complexity and vulnerability of the self. Some are like smudged make-up on those days when one is in a state of flux, and ‘I know what it looks like’ and I don’t really care, so a well-directed insult is in order. Others are more translucent, you can see to a certain extent, but you don’t know the real story – hence the Untitled / Missing titles. So get closer.
When I look at these portraits of very urban characters something I immediately notice is their eyes and mouths. They are all undeniably present. They are all looking at us through us; sensual and sometimes accusatory. They are desirable and bleak. Faces swept by the world, rained on and intense. Some ordinary, some full of grace and poise.
These fleeting faces, made by the tidal marks of the watercolours belong to people of the urban landscape. Their faces, and their alter-egos. No rigid outlines and no volume, because the three-dimensional comes later – when we are made aware of their stories. Some of the figures are surrounded by serpentine lines of text which tell us of their insecurities, their wants, their desires, their anger. That is, our wants, desires and needs to be loved, to belong, to embrace our own fluidity, to ‘feel disgusted at the process of waking up’ – which inevitably happens once we know we are inside the whale (Orwell got it right a long while ago).
Those quivering lines just haunt me, because they transmit a vulnerability I endorse. They show the artist’s love of people with all its consequences. There is a transcending tenderness in these pieces, where gender constructs do not apply – the binary is insufferably constraining and aggressive. It’s this empathy we need more than ever in an ever commodified world run by bombastic blond bigots.