Can you tell us about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I work primarily with painting and collage, and sometimes translate my paintings into tapestry and assemblage works, more recently my work has leaned into a collagist approach with paper-based paintings. My works have an almost banality to the subject matter, usually drawing upon visuals and forms within my household or studio space, either from life or from an archive of images I have collected. Despite this supposed banality to the images, I believe it is through the translation and transformation of these forms through abstraction and materiality is where my interest in work lies. My approach to making is very instinctual. I usually work on multiple pieces at the same time. I like each of my paintings to look somewhat different to the next, therefore I find that working on multiple pieces at the same time helps create visual links and references within themselves as pieces within a larger visual enquiry. I like to work fast, as I think it keeps the energy of the idea, then I usually rework the pieces at a later date. Through arranging and collating paintings and noticing patterns between the works, I aim for serendipity in my paintings and that feeling that somehow the elements have come together on their own.
Who are your biggest influences?
I love this quote by artist Lisa Condon who says that ‘everything you see and hear is useable in your work’ I believe thinking this way allows my work to be more authentic, and allow inspiration to come whenever, wherever! I use my phone as a substitute for a sketchbook, take a lot of photos of forms, colours, images that I find interesting, that I can take back to the studio to use as inspiration for work.
In terms of artists, I’m currently educating myself in the uses of collage by painters historically, I’m particularly inspired by the collages of Henri Matisse, Betty Woodman and Margret Nomentana. I love the elements of fun in their work and bold use of colour. Having said this, my influences are often changing and shifting, and I can be inspired by an individual artwork rather than a body of work. I think keeping an open mind to influence keeps my work fresh and relevant to my life and work.
Can you talk about the role craft plays in your practice?
I like to balance what might be considered ‘high’ and ‘low’ brow materials and use different levels of ‘craftsmanship’ when creating work. I enjoy the tension between a heavily rendered or well-constructed image being interrupted by simplistic linework. My introduction into art growing up was through photo-realist paintings, and I almost got obsessed with recreating something exactly as it was. Finding my voice as an artist has allowed me to enjoy abstracting imagery and work with different levels of rendering and levels of perceived ‘skill’.
Visually speaking, I am inspired by a lot of craft and visual design. I appreciate the ‘D.I.Y’ aesthetic, and I like to use visual gimmicks in my work to reference the construction of the work itself. I like how referencing craft in my paintings pushes away from the perceived loftiness of abstract painting.
How important is material in your work?
I believe materiality is central to the work I make. I tend to use materials in a way that alters their assumed function, transforming mundane materials through a painterly lens. Recently I have been using decorators caulk in a painterly way, rather than using it for its adhesive qualities, and recreating blu-tac as a kind of impasto paint in a somewhat comical gesture.
Colour is equally as important to my work as materiality. Many of my works are started with a particular colour scheme in mind, even if these preconceived colours then change through the making. I collect a lot of paint swatches, and imagery of colours I find unique or complementary to each other, often subconsciously working in seasonal colour pallets. I am definitely in a blues phase at the minute. I like the designer's approach to creating artworks with particular colour schemes as it gives me a framework in which to work.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Besides the essentials of a paintbrush, I would say a craft-knife is integral to my work. Collage has become a large component of my practice, especially within the last two years. I like to see works on paper as an integral part of my practice and not a means to an end. I have found a freedom in the manual ‘cut and paste’ approach of splicing together multiple images, paintings and textures, then assembling them to create new imageries. I find that this helps the work stay fresh and can breathe new life into paintings that I feel have been pushed to their limits. The physical act of cutting through a painting allows me to be less precious of the work, take an editorial stance and make riskier decisions that I wouldn’t with just paint and a brush.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
The ‘Vitamin P’ series of books are a staple for any artist working with paint. It gives a good scope of some of the most exciting painters working internationally, I get re-inspired each time I read them. I would also say that ‘The artist handbook’ is a great practical resource to better understand materials and their properties.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I am enjoying continuing with my series of works on paper, which is something that was developed out of the first lockdown in 2020, and in many ways has sustained my practice working from home. I am currently working on larger paintings and hoping to exhibit them soon. I value the in-person gallery experience and am itching to get back into the gallery space! My work and information about upcoming exhibitions can be found at lukepauldawes.com and @lukepauldawes on Instagram.
Lexicon, 2018. Oil, soft pastel, plasticine, canvas, porcelain, ceramic glaze, wood, beeswax, steel.
Colour swatches (cutting mat) 2020. Acrylic, Pantone stickers and collage on paper. A4 (21.0 x 29.7cm)
Paint Fumes, 2020. Chalk paint, acrylic, ink and collage on paper. A4 (21.0 x 29.7cm)
Fair game, 2018. Oil acrylic, chalk paint, paper, spray paint, soft pastel, charcoal on canvas on board. 210 x 150cm
Colour swatches (cutting mat) 2020. Chalk paint, acrylic and collage on paper. A4 (21.0 x 29.7cm)
Hide and seek, 2018. (Diptych) oil, chalk paint, spray paint, soft pastels on canvas. Pine and iron frame. 181 x 127cm each
All image credit the artist.