The work of Nathan Hawkes is born from the unspectacular.
His deep commitment to the exercise of drawing, irrespective of its outcome, gives the work its quiet force.
Rather than expecting the finished piece to impress as a well-executed method or idea, he generously allows traces of his own uncertainty and doubt to saturate the surface.
The materials he uses are basic: Paper, pastels and graphite, not much else.
There is a noticeable interdependency between the forms and colours, despite their innate difference. None of the individual shapes emerge as dominating or excessive. Instead, they are all woven together to create a distinct fabric of backgrounds and beginnings.
Without a clear opening, a way in to the work, our gaze continues to travel across the frenzied surface. This makes grasping the work as a whole so challenging: What we see is not a picture but a practice.
This practice is constantly overflowing with the newness and spontaneity of first attempts: Forms and colours expand and contract, are built up and erased, the paper scored and the pigments smudged.
There is no obvious subject matter or distinction between fore- and background. What we recognise as leaves of grass might turn out to be informal patterns. It’s as if these visual underpinnings allow us to observe their own genesis, the juncture at which distinguishable forms come into being.
There is a fleeting sense of order, but it is unstable and constantly shifting.
An array of careful decisions and omissions invite us to partake in a certain kind of unknowing. It’s a chance to experience the drawings on their own terms instead of categorising them into pre-existing genres.
The work of Nathan Hawkes does not show us anything directly. There is no message or agenda. It’s trying to do something more essential while also more subtle: to pay attention to attention.
Increasingly, we lose hold of what we think we understood about the work. All interpretations of things seem to give way to the act of lingering among these satin blues and clotted reds.
Hawkes has a tender way of leading us into the depths of our being.
Depth often comes at the cost of clarity.
Eventually we may find ourselves enriched but confused, left within a cloud of pigment and shifting colours and without a map.
Learning to embrace the unpredictable can be wonderfully frustrating.
There’s no shame in that.
Daniel Domig, Vienna 2018