In his paintings, Verne Dawson creates stories, symbols, and playful narratives examining humanity's relationship with evolution and the natural world. His fable-like scenes are inspired by myths, folklore, and nature. Often connecting the prehistoric past to the present, Dawson's work conveys a sense of continuity between ancient times and today.Read More
Besides the symbolism and myriad references present in his works, Dawson's practice is also an homage to the art of painting. His unique narratives emerge through composition, detail, and colour, and often combine abstract and figurative techniques, as well as contradictory themes, in one frame.
Born in 1961 in Alabama, Verne Dawson studied at the Art's Student League of New York before attending The Cooper Union in 1980. He held his first solo exhibition at New York's Portrait Studio in 1985.
Predominantly working with oil paint, his idiosyncratic works defy contemporary art's trends by exploring a broad range of themes. Fundamentally, his paintings deal with human civilisation and its relationship to the passage of time, revealing an original artistic vision.
In his works, Dawson often juxtaposes historic ages, forming unrealistic and surreal scenes. By doing this, he anthropologically studies how humankind has evolved through history by exploring notions such as technology, space, astronomy, numerology, and advancement.
His 'The Days of the Week' (2019) series focuses on how human traditions and customs are directly influenced by the movements of the sun, moon, and the planetary system: an unchanged natural phenomenon that has linked cultures and civilisations for thousands of years. 'The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker' (1985—91) is a series of five works created over a period of six years. The oldest in the series is an oval painting of the titular bird in flight. Dawson painted it in the hopes that the bird, which science has not been able to determine as alive or extinct, may still exist.
Through a collection of non-linear paintings, his exhibition The Apalachicola to Zirconia (2013) explored the route taken by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Sotos on his fatal expedition through America's southeast in search for the fountain of youth. In these works, time collapses as the paintings simultaneously present a visualisation of the past, the perception of the present, and an imagined vision of the future.
In his work Pagans (2010), presented at the Whitney Biennial, he combines myths and fairy tales to convey how human culture has been directly shaped in harmony with nature. On four sides of the canvas, each season is represented by a modern-day pagan figure: Santa Claus, the Green Man, the Fool, and Dracula, each a symbol of their calendrical significance.
His four-part mural entitled Old Mill Calendar (2011) explores the oppositional notions that exist in the natural rhythm of existence: day and night, light and dark, and life and death. This work was presented at the Yokohama Triennial in 2011.
A major illustrated monograph of Dawson's work was published by Lund Humphries in 2019 as part of their Contemporary Painters Series.
Verne Dawson's works have been featured in many solo and group exhibitions at several international venues. His work has been presented at Victoria Miro, London; Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, New York and Zurich; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Le Consortium, Dijon; Camden Arts Centre, London; Kunsthalle Zurich; MoMA PS1, New York; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Musee d'Art Moderne de Paris.
He has also presented at several significant group exhibitions, such as the Yokohama Trienniale (2011), the Whitney Biennial (2010), and the Lyon Bienniale (2005).
Leila Sajjadi | Ocula | 2021