If you ask Dana Lawrie about the title of her latest show Grasp The Nettle, the artist replies, “It’s about approaching something unpleasant, but approaching in a way that’s brave. It’s about doing something as a way of accepting a certain thing, or learning more about it.” The nettles that Lawrie is grasping are impermanence, permanence, death, time, beauty and decay.
Showing at Metro Arts, Grasp The Nettle presents a series of oil paintings that are infused with natural elements from seeds, avocados, pomegranates, jaboticabas and hibiscus flowers. These ephemeral materials were collected in unlikely places, such as stranger’s gardens in the dead of night.
Lawrie’s use of natural pigments stems from interests in nature, time and marking.
“It came out of a quiet, introverted way of thinking about seasons and cycles and how that might be something that can garner more surrender into time,” she says. “Because I grew up on an avocado farm I’ve been around vegetation and things that rot, so it came from this, as well as collecting things to mark-make with.”
From here the artist uses her materials to build ongoing tensions between permanence and impermanence, and entropy and repetition. Rather than seeking to resolve these binaries, Lawrie uses the space created to meditate on the links between the unremarkable and meaningful. “It’s this idea of the void and a loss of self through repetitive actions and existing in a place of non-existence, just getting lost in the process,” says Lawrie.
Lawrie’s mark-making is also an expansion of self-portraiture through the idea of self-recording.
“It’s about how the self can exist in the work,” she explains. “When I use oil paint it comes from a place of accessing the explorations of dualities in archival mediums; how oil paint can affirm my presence through the marks that I’m making and the image of myself, and how those two combined can also transform into an object that outlasts me.”
While Lawrie wants viewers to see humour in her work, she also invites self-reflection. “I just want people to focus on the power that exists within the snagging that happens between beauty and dread,” sums up Lawrie. “It can be quiet, but it can also be the loudest silence ever.”