Dawn Clements draws and paints her environment, moving from 1 perspective to the next with an intense eye and a sure hand over days and weeks. The works become cumulative, not only as observations but also physically, since the artist adds sheets of newspaper to incorporate each new region of her subject. Gradually, they develop to become huge pieces, some more than 20 feet long.
After I gave myself permission to paste on more newspaper, I understood that I could make massive drawings from smaller modules. Once the framework of the rectangle was changed, I might consider drawing at a more simplistic manner, a drawing needn’t be a’window’ but may pose itself as the object it is.”
Recently, faced with grave health issues, Clements has chosen to integrate evidence of her continuing remedies in the form of medication packaging. A body of work which takes on the shifting, transitory nature of perception has now broadened to become a meditation on mortality.
Sometimes my drawings become torn or worn or distressed as I fold and glue them” she says, but I patch and repair them. All this is part of my process.”
We were saddened to learn that artist Dawn Clements, whose big, accumulative still life works recorded the joy of normal life, passed away recently at the age of 60. According to the obituary by Neil Genzlinger for The New York Times: Dawn Clements, whose intricate drawings and watercolors captured detailed scenes from her life and from film melodramas, frequently on a panoramic scale, expired on Dec. 4, at a hospice in the Bronx… Ms. Clements’s drawings — generally in sumi ink or ballpoint pen — along with her paintings often used multiple sheets of paper, stitched together into large, irregular shapes which contrasted with the technical precision of her hand.”
Three Tables in Rome by Dawn Clements (detail; watercolor on paper, 85×248)
As you can imagine, this was a really confusing time for me. However, there I was in this extraordinary place, using a glorious studio at a community of accomplished and brilliant artists and scholars. It was a very strange time, dreamlike in many ways,” she says.
Achieve an extremely large scale. All these are attributes that both add to the character and power of the job, but also pose challenges concerning longevity.
Unexpectedly, Clements launched into a really large watercolor. For my Rome project [Three Tables in Rome, below] I wanted to experiment with some ideas having to do with whether or not diﬀerent levels of deﬁnition or resolution could coexist efficiently in a single work,” she states. To do this, I made some rules for myself. I determined that I would draw what I discovered across several tabletops. Rather than staying ﬁxed in one position, I’d move across the border of the table so I’d always be near the items I had been observing, translating them much how a movie or ﬁlm camera might slowly traveling and scan a distance ”
The ﬁnished works are displayed unframed, extending out across the walls of a bunch, and subjected to accidents. I do worry about the durability of my job, but I suppose I am more curious about the search itself,” says Clements. I often make large works in tiny spaces, for instance, a huge drawing of my table”
To do this, she could start little, insert paper with adhesive as she progresses and then fold the paper to accommodate her achieve. Clements almost always functions on a ﬂat surface parallel to the ﬂoor, like a table, and almost never works on the wall. This keeps me near the items I’m drawing and sets me at the kitchen table,” she says. I hope that Though the work can become very large in size that it’s never’monumental.'”
Clements strives to convey a familiarity in her work, even when it is a huge format. I want the work to reﬂect my life and what I see–both of the love and the mess,” she says. Possibly the distress that happens into the work a part of it”
While Clements’ work consistently has been somewhat autobiographical in documenting the distances in which she has worked and lived, it’s taken on new significance because the performer has seen herself facing serious health challenges.
As she moved across and painted the tabletops, Clements added objects such as fruits, scraps of newspaper and other things she encountered in her daily life. In the last weeks of working on this particular piece, I kept accepting chemotherapy tablets and taking a look at the box, saving the used blisterpacks of those pills I’d consumed. I wanted to incorporate them at the job, but I didn’t immediately do so.”
Yet the ﬁnal story of Three Tables
And the job itself was rough and exciting for me. It took a great deal of attention”
For instance, a ﬂower would wilt or shed its petals; a hyacinth would bloom; a piece of fruit gradually would rust; or even a residency could come to an end. I always tried to react to these changes and incorporate them into the job. The impact of time passing and bodily change aﬀected the way I wrote and resolved work. As opposed to controlling my surroundings, I tried to associate with it.
In ways, it became a calendar, a way of counting days,” Clements says. And I simply decided that, for me, it would be unethical not to incorporate these items that had become such an important part of my life. They became signiﬁcant and as ordinary as any of those objects on the table.
Clements started each day by cutting out a piece of paper by a large roster, picking a size that she believed she would ﬁll that day. For instance, on day one, I proposed to paint a pine twig, so the newspaper was about how big the pine twig, not far larger,” she states. She subsequently painted an olive branch onto it. On each subsequent day, I’d add only enough paper for that day,” she states, and that is the way the job grew [eventually reaching 22 feet in width].”
But naturally,” she’s, the text on the tablet box package is quite legibletext in a visual work can be an area of focus. People today see it and examine it. It has a capability to induce and emphasize a story.”
Clements added the following rule to her procedure; she vowed never to return to the prior day’s work. She’d only move forward. I could add any size or paper that I desired, and the completed work might be any size or shape I wanted within the boundaries of the eight weeks of the residency. I was only limited by time, not size,” she says.
Dawn Clements (d. 2018) grew up in Chelmsford, Mass., in which her dad was an artist. Some of her earliest memories were drawing in his own studio. In school, she studied ﬁlm before finally embracing a career in art. I know music and ﬁlm inﬂuenced my work and invited me to think about how we move and continuously framework, interpret and present our experiences as we move through our lives,” she said. I came to consider observation as looking closely, but also listening and touching. I came to appreciate points of view that move and shift.”
If we are drawing an interior of an ornate church, we might be considered obsessive if we draw all the details,” she says, but really, that’s the topic.” Clements says her interest in a minute drawing of a patch of yard was influenced by particular functions of Fra Angelico (Italian; 1395-1455), in which sections of yard, thick with assorted flowers, appear alongside amounts.
Article written by John A. Parks, a painter, a writer and a part of the faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
A lot of times, I explain it as a sort of climbing-in,” Clements says, referring to carrying a state of extreme monitoring. Acknowledging the heavy detail, she points out that with some areas, detail is just unavoidable.
One of Clements’ most unusual watercolors–Grass— represents a small area of lawn seen from directly above, in which every blade of grass and wildflower is researched with the almost-obsessive eye.
I am not a botanist, and I’m a gardener, however, it was fascinating simply to spend that time using a square foot of yard .”
In Rome turns out to be much broader than the narrative of an illness. Incorporated within the picture are all fruits, foliage and many different Italian packaging displaying vibrant, stylish type. A lamp and a telephone are joined by the worn woodgrain of a desk , and a glance of lawn and light in the view through a window.
Life is ongoing in all of its aspects of growth and decay. Sophisticated electronic artifacts take their place together with natural forms; a particular flavor for pleasure and lightness occupies the piece. The entire richness of existence is here. If a number of its attributes are always darker than many others, the artist manages to give us a look at the entire with substantial relish and joy.
To paint the yard, Clements decided she would spend only an hour every day of her six-week residency in Umbria painting a part of roughly a square foot of lawn. She did this over 23 consecutive days. What interested me was that a yard is always growing,” she states. Sometimes even over the course of 24 hours, it would be difficult to find my place again.
Clements’ work has been exhibited widely over many years, including at the Whitney Biennial 2010. It’s also included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Tang Museum, at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; The Deutsche Bank Collection; The Saatchi Collection, in London; The Henry Art Gallery; the University of Washington, in Seattle, Wash.; and Colecção Madeira Corporate Services, in Portugal.