A funny personal note about Dawn's ink paintings is that they look like the portrait busts they were painted from and also like two aspects of the artist who painted them. Beatrice of Aragon (the copy) looks outward in a gentle way and is almost about to move forward (Dawn is a great walker). The portrait of a Lady is quite still, quite introspective. She is considering something—which is also a look of the artist's that I recognize.
They are painted with one brush and sumi ink, but the brushwork does not come from any known calligraphic tradition. It is economical not in fewest number of marks but in using each dip of the brush to the fullest extent. There is great variety in the marks, from wet to dry and from utilitarian to sensitive and extremely fine.
The paper on which the “Lady” was painted was not big enough to include her base and an extra inch of paper was glued on. This is a characteristic of Dawn’s work; a drawing might start out on a small piece of paper and be added on to until it fills a room, turning the corners. A nice touch on the lady is an extra stroke of black ink on the top that is about the same as the added width.
That aspect of the work, that she adds paper “as needed” to fill an intuited internal idea of the size for the painting, is quite unusual for two dimensional work. Usually the size, even of large works on walls or ceilings, would be a given and, in the case of smaller works, it would be the first decision made.
Many of the characteristics of Dutch painting that Svetlana Alpers lists in The Art of Describing apply: “the frequent absence of a positioned viewer, as if the world came first; a play with great contrasts in scale; the absence of a prior frame (the world in Dutch pictures often seems to be cut off by the edges of the work or conversely to extend beyond its bounds); a formidable sense of the picture as a surface (like a mirror or a map, but not a window) on which words along with objects can be replicated or inscribed; an insistence on the craft of representation.”
The subject of Dawn’s work (which has been described often as “interior domestic spaces”) includes that new domestic space provided for us by movies and television. She has found a way to work from life and logically (as it is part of the contemporary domestic space), to work from the mediated image—a neat trick.