Sonia Lawson R.A
Rune Rock. circa 1996
38x37cm Oil on Canvas
Quotation taken from
Art Review, An Artist’s Diary
first published 1996
Having had my recent time filled with preparations for a retrospective exhibition covering 30 years'
work since 1966, I am now keen to get back to current paintings. But things have to be
categorised to some extent at least, though not so much as to negate my broad intentions.
From the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s I felt myself to be an artist of conscience
and accountability; a witness. Paintings with such titles as Figure at Dawn
(Prisoner awaiting execution) ,Daybreak (execution), Bound Figure, No
Hiding Place and Frail Peace, support this.
Works of that period are from a limited palette, concentrating on the gravity of the subject matter,
eschewing beguiling colour as inappropriate to the case.
I always looked upon Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal (1957), shot in black and white, as holding all the weight of
I now see Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing (1987), shot in colour, as holding all the strength and intensity of black and
white. Both directors succeed in engaging us so thoroughly by their characteristic minimalism. Their vision is what counts and
I’ve learned that colour can be used, not just for its own sake, which isn’t enough, but as a potent integral aside.
Currently I want the paint to have its own indulgence; oil, pigments, colour, honed and wrought- not just gestural notations,
but something made and ‘built’: growing and filling out like a fed thing.
My interest is to solve the difficulty of using recognisable imagery, yet having the freedom of abstraction, evading the
strictures of narrative, yet still using, say, a boat, a tree, a figure if I want to, and if I use them it is important to
simultaneously try and break the bounds of familiarity.
It makes credible why German painter Georg Baselitz turns his paintings upside
down. Surely it is in order to escape the demand for an explanation to what is,
after all, an image of a person set down upon a canvas. Baselitz can now present
his work as something freed from narrative, yet the figurative elements remain
If I’m concerned with the materials themselves and the application process, whilst
at the same time dealing with expression and emotion (but free from unnecessary
embellishment), then a plump, vigorous minimalism is needed.
My recent scoring of the surface, making runes with the brush handle in the paint
and cutting into the thick layers with a blade are beginning to take on a primitive,
basic clarity, while the paint is a sophisticated, crafted surface worked on over a
long time. The combination is a positive piece of building. Now all subject matter
can hold its own subjective reality and I am currently working within the broad
scope which this allows.
Frail Peace. Oil on Canvas
still from The Seventh Seal:
Figure at Dawn. Oil on Canvas
183x163cm Oil on Canvas
2015: Sonia Lawson Passions and Alarms
Monograph published: 144 colour pages: author Nicholas Usherwood