Haggo: The painter in the landscape

WhatsOn Apr 09, 2016 by Regina Haggo Hamilton Spectator

Experiencing nature is all part of a day's work for a landscape painter like David Laing Dawson.

"If you sit in the landscape, painting for a few hours, you feel, smell, experience the intimacy of nature, and its vastness and mystery," he tells me.

"You are watching things changing, growing and dying, and responding to this. The act of painting, like meditation, turns off the chatter in the left brain and heightens the experience of the right brain."

The Hamilton psychiatrist, novelist, playwright — and artist — has been painting landscapes for many years. His most recent brush with nature led to A Brush with Verisimilitude, an exhibition of 24 striking oils at Gallery on the Bay.

"The paintings in this show are all studio paintings, from sketches, watercolours, and some oils done previously in situ, and from memory," he says.

But Dawson carefully balances the experience of nature with the act of painting.

"I think painting in situ is about the painter in the landscape," he explains. "Painting in the studio becomes more about the painting, the act of painting and the finished object that might be worthy of a frame and a place in a living room. Painting in the studio becomes more about using those basic elements of line, colour, form, composition and texture to capture an essence, to create an evocative image worth looking at over and over again."

Dawson blurs the boundaries between the representational and the abstract. Patterns and shapes made by nature seem to morph seamlessly into the marks and movements of the brush, and back again.

In "Orange Tree, Ontario," for instance, we are looking at a landscape and an arrangement of form and colour. The composition is reduced to three horizontals: land, trees and sky. The top one, the sky, painted in a brilliant mauve, takes up more than half of the pictorial space.

The strong mauves of the sky compete with the bright green strip of land. They are separated by a soft-edged strip of what might pass for fir trees, their shapes recalling the movements of the brush. A big orange tree, its candy-floss-like form built up with light and dark strokes, unites all the horizontals.

It is land, not sky, that dominates the landscape in "New Mexico Moment." Dawson reduces the setting to four horizontals of varying widths that seem to continue infinitely beyond the painting. This evokes vastness.

"Nevada" offers a dense and austere landscape of undulating horizontals, set against a flat green sky. Nature's distinctive patterns and textures morph into the marks of the brush.

"In trying to distil my memories and the elements captured in situ in sketches I fell into using a fan brush exclusively. By its nature it eliminates contrived detail while, at times, leaving distinct markings from each bristle. The fan brush, more than other brushes, causes movement, forces the painter to use quick, rhythmical, deft strokes, almost as if conducting an orchestra."

"I could try to offer a reason to paint like this, but I simply think it suits my temperament."

David Laing Dawson the playwright has one play, "If there is a river," closing Sunday and another, "MacBush the Musical," premièring April 26. For more information and reservations, phone Gallery on the Bay or go to galleryonthebay.ca.

Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

dhaggo@thespec.com

Haggo: The painter in the landscape

WhatsOn Apr 09, 2016 by Regina Haggo Hamilton Spectator

Experiencing nature is all part of a day's work for a landscape painter like David Laing Dawson.

"If you sit in the landscape, painting for a few hours, you feel, smell, experience the intimacy of nature, and its vastness and mystery," he tells me.

"You are watching things changing, growing and dying, and responding to this. The act of painting, like meditation, turns off the chatter in the left brain and heightens the experience of the right brain."

The Hamilton psychiatrist, novelist, playwright — and artist — has been painting landscapes for many years. His most recent brush with nature led to A Brush with Verisimilitude, an exhibition of 24 striking oils at Gallery on the Bay.

"The paintings in this show are all studio paintings, from sketches, watercolours, and some oils done previously in situ, and from memory," he says.

But Dawson carefully balances the experience of nature with the act of painting.

"I think painting in situ is about the painter in the landscape," he explains. "Painting in the studio becomes more about the painting, the act of painting and the finished object that might be worthy of a frame and a place in a living room. Painting in the studio becomes more about using those basic elements of line, colour, form, composition and texture to capture an essence, to create an evocative image worth looking at over and over again."

Dawson blurs the boundaries between the representational and the abstract. Patterns and shapes made by nature seem to morph seamlessly into the marks and movements of the brush, and back again.

In "Orange Tree, Ontario," for instance, we are looking at a landscape and an arrangement of form and colour. The composition is reduced to three horizontals: land, trees and sky. The top one, the sky, painted in a brilliant mauve, takes up more than half of the pictorial space.

The strong mauves of the sky compete with the bright green strip of land. They are separated by a soft-edged strip of what might pass for fir trees, their shapes recalling the movements of the brush. A big orange tree, its candy-floss-like form built up with light and dark strokes, unites all the horizontals.

It is land, not sky, that dominates the landscape in "New Mexico Moment." Dawson reduces the setting to four horizontals of varying widths that seem to continue infinitely beyond the painting. This evokes vastness.

"Nevada" offers a dense and austere landscape of undulating horizontals, set against a flat green sky. Nature's distinctive patterns and textures morph into the marks of the brush.

"In trying to distil my memories and the elements captured in situ in sketches I fell into using a fan brush exclusively. By its nature it eliminates contrived detail while, at times, leaving distinct markings from each bristle. The fan brush, more than other brushes, causes movement, forces the painter to use quick, rhythmical, deft strokes, almost as if conducting an orchestra."

"I could try to offer a reason to paint like this, but I simply think it suits my temperament."

David Laing Dawson the playwright has one play, "If there is a river," closing Sunday and another, "MacBush the Musical," premièring April 26. For more information and reservations, phone Gallery on the Bay or go to galleryonthebay.ca.

Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

dhaggo@thespec.com

Haggo: The painter in the landscape

WhatsOn Apr 09, 2016 by Regina Haggo Hamilton Spectator

Experiencing nature is all part of a day's work for a landscape painter like David Laing Dawson.

"If you sit in the landscape, painting for a few hours, you feel, smell, experience the intimacy of nature, and its vastness and mystery," he tells me.

"You are watching things changing, growing and dying, and responding to this. The act of painting, like meditation, turns off the chatter in the left brain and heightens the experience of the right brain."

The Hamilton psychiatrist, novelist, playwright — and artist — has been painting landscapes for many years. His most recent brush with nature led to A Brush with Verisimilitude, an exhibition of 24 striking oils at Gallery on the Bay.

"The paintings in this show are all studio paintings, from sketches, watercolours, and some oils done previously in situ, and from memory," he says.

But Dawson carefully balances the experience of nature with the act of painting.

"I think painting in situ is about the painter in the landscape," he explains. "Painting in the studio becomes more about the painting, the act of painting and the finished object that might be worthy of a frame and a place in a living room. Painting in the studio becomes more about using those basic elements of line, colour, form, composition and texture to capture an essence, to create an evocative image worth looking at over and over again."

Dawson blurs the boundaries between the representational and the abstract. Patterns and shapes made by nature seem to morph seamlessly into the marks and movements of the brush, and back again.

In "Orange Tree, Ontario," for instance, we are looking at a landscape and an arrangement of form and colour. The composition is reduced to three horizontals: land, trees and sky. The top one, the sky, painted in a brilliant mauve, takes up more than half of the pictorial space.

The strong mauves of the sky compete with the bright green strip of land. They are separated by a soft-edged strip of what might pass for fir trees, their shapes recalling the movements of the brush. A big orange tree, its candy-floss-like form built up with light and dark strokes, unites all the horizontals.

It is land, not sky, that dominates the landscape in "New Mexico Moment." Dawson reduces the setting to four horizontals of varying widths that seem to continue infinitely beyond the painting. This evokes vastness.

"Nevada" offers a dense and austere landscape of undulating horizontals, set against a flat green sky. Nature's distinctive patterns and textures morph into the marks of the brush.

"In trying to distil my memories and the elements captured in situ in sketches I fell into using a fan brush exclusively. By its nature it eliminates contrived detail while, at times, leaving distinct markings from each bristle. The fan brush, more than other brushes, causes movement, forces the painter to use quick, rhythmical, deft strokes, almost as if conducting an orchestra."

"I could try to offer a reason to paint like this, but I simply think it suits my temperament."

David Laing Dawson the playwright has one play, "If there is a river," closing Sunday and another, "MacBush the Musical," premièring April 26. For more information and reservations, phone Gallery on the Bay or go to galleryonthebay.ca.

Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

dhaggo@thespec.com