Since graduating in design from London Metropolitan University’s School of Art, Architecture and Design (formerly Sir John Cass School of Art) in 2011, London-based Barbadian artist Dawn Beckles has established a career as a painter, incorporating collage and screen-printing into her practice.
Working out of Wimbledon Art Studios, Dawn specialises in painting still lifes and imagined interiors, drawing inspiration from her memories of growing up in Barbados and from her everyday life experiences. Dawn’s reinterpretation of the classic still life stands out for her use of vibrant colour and her depiction of the home settings and abundant greenery that characterised her childhood. “I choose vibrant colours as a reminder of that period of my life and the people who I met there. My approach to colour is also influenced by the light in Barbados, which is very different to here! For me colours are also an extension of the emotions.”
The philosophy underlying Dawn’s work is to celebrate the intimate relationship between an item and its owner by illuminating the context in which it is presented. Her process, whether portraying an elaborately decorated room or a simple ceramic vase accompanied by orchids and birds of paradise, consists of letting the composition evolve intuitively before applying her diverse technical skills to complete each painting.
All Dawn’s still lifes feature one or more items of pottery, but she admits that her obsession is inexplicable! In her mini still life paintings, she applies resin over the ceramic subject, creating a raised effect that evokes the physicality of the object.
Dawn always starts with a neon ground (she paints neon around the edges of her small still lifes too, which casts a mesmerising glow onto the frame or the wall behind). Next she sketches in base elements with charcoal, before building the still life setting layer by layer, deciding on the colours and adding subjects as she goes. Dawn chooses whichever medium she senses each piece needs (oil, gold leaf, spray paint etc.) until she feels it is finished.
Dawn has been shortlisted for a number of prestigious prizes and exhibitions: in 2019 she had a painting selected for the second round of judging for the BP Portrait Award and another for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries; in 2018 she was a contestant on Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year; and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Rise Art Prize and the Society of Women Artists’ Summer Exhibition. Her work can be found in public and private collections around the world, from Los Angeles to Sweden to Dubai.