INTERVIEW: Richard Dawson – Collages | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s not unusual for practitioners of the musical arts to dabble successfully in the visual – e.g. John Lennon; this doesn’t usually work so well the other way around – cf. Yoko Ono.  Thankfully, in the former category, we find Richard Dawson, himself one of the North East’s most noted purveyors of music that, if one were of a jaded and uncharitable frame of mind, could be called wilfully obscurantist, what with its scant regard for any convention of pitch, time, or coherence, but in reality is a charmingly-executed example of a late-night liaison between his natural flair for the avant-garde crossed with the region’s deep passion for folk storytelling. Just with less mention of fog and sausage rolls.

Naturally, having mastered, or at least shown who was boss, his three-quarter size guitar, Dawson’s creative impulses searched for another outlet and, being self-confessedly shit at drawing, the primary school favourite genre of collage was the natural back-up plan. “I had a lot of energy to make physical things – music’s so ethereal – so a friend suggested collage. It felt very natural.” Dawson tells me.

Sometimes I have to take a step back from music and in those periods I still want to be making stuff. And vice versa – sometimes I have to take a step back from collage to make music!

The simply titled Collages exhibition is to be displayed in chronological order at NewBridge Project in Newcastle from Friday 29th January until Saturday 13th February, which allows us to see how dramatically the artworks have changed over time. Fools such as I, with callow eyes and fickle sensibilities, will be drawn to his early work – saturated primary colours, recognisable forms, and a juxtaposition just the right side of uncomfortable, place us in a safe art nursery, watched over by benign nannies Blake, Warhol and Gilliam. But Dawson is quick to dismiss his early work as clumsy, and cite their worth as merely examples of “what to avoid”.

Then there’s a few stylistic dead ends – experiments with both dense, high-frequency abstraction and sparse, low-frequency almost-landscapes, via the inevitable diversion into monochrome for a couple of pieces, until we emerge, blinking, into his “Sharpie period”. Each graphic element is delineated in black marker pen, giving credence to the collage’s pretend depth, strictly asserting each element’s position in the three-dimensional hierarchy. And the very use of a pen is a crucial marker: for the man who cannot draw – which is a lie anyway – to make the pen the arbiter of form and depth in his collages means they perhaps aren’t really collages any more.

The present sees Dawson turning collage on its head – creating recognisable forms out of unrecognisable clippings. His kimono lady has, uniquely, a plain white background, and the collage material is used for colour only – it has no identity of its own. And that is perhaps the final aim of all the varied forms visual art – to transcend medium, to transmit creative energy with the least amount of interference, to minimise noise. Dawson cannot claim to have mastered collage, but he can finally claim to be able to bend it to his will, which is the same thing in the end.

Richard Dawson’s Collages are displayed at NewBridge Project, Newcastle from Friday 29th January until Saturday 13th February.


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