The forces of media: Nathan Hawkes

It’s an encounter, isn’t it? To stand before one of Nathan Hawkes’ large drawings, maybe only one pace away, so your field of vision is fully absorbed. This is not just looking, there is a certain anticipation for the unexpected to happen: the wind to move across the surface of things; the sensation of earth underfoot; the heat of the day radiating. The lines and mark making, the colours rising off the paper are elemental. Yes, as in, fire, water, air, and earth – the very stuff that holds the world together also creates the composition before you. Hawkes challenges the assumed distinction between the ecologies within the frame of a drawing and the ecologies of the natural world. The subject and object divide of traditional landscape drawing, wavers, hesitates, disappears through the sensation of media. Here we are referring to two things at once: media that is the charcoal and chalk pastels used to make these drawings and the media that is fire, water, air, and earth. Indeed, in the 19th century, to speak of media was to refer to the elements. And of course, media, as we know it now, is the means and apparatus for communicating meaning. Before us, in these drawings, is where all this media meaning coalesces. The elements, the material, the meaning, they pile on.

It’s both a risk and act of generosity to make drawings of and about landscapes in this moment in time. This moment of crisis, of denial, of uncertainty and of discovery, of remembering, of listening. This is Hawkes’ contribution: to add to the conversation of what it feels and means to be in this moment where we are moving away from the philosophical and ontological or toward an and. This or that, no longer makes sense. We cannot distinguish between the natural or artificial. Now there is plastics in our blood, we are natural and artificial, we are afraid and hopeful, media (evoking all the word’s definitions) will destroy us and save us, the elements – the floods and fires – are over there and they are inside us. These drawings attune to this and, yet in their brilliance they are not literal, they are not overcrowded. There is space in Hawkes’ drawings for one landscape to fit into another, one experience to take place inside another, because, perhaps, we are once again ready for a mystical relationship with the world.

– Jaimee Edwards, 2022