En Avant art exhibition

14 Jul 2017 - 17 Sep 2017

En Avant is a new series of clay paintings by artist Robert Dawson, which draw from the visual language and stylised motifs of Gothic Revival architect A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852).

Dawson reimagines Pugin’s designs from both the Shrine of St Augustine, Ramsgate, which he constructed to be in keeping with the “true principles of Christian architecture” (1845–52) , and The Grange (1843), Pugin’s family home next door. Dawson embodies the artisanal spirit of Pugin himself, while revitalising his designs for the twenty-first century. Pugin’s personal motto “en avant”, meaning “onward”, is the principal idea: onward in time and continuing forward.

​Across a series of twelve works, Dawson resamples and reinterprets many of Pugin’s Gothic motifs, such as the fleur-de-lis, scrolling foliage, and roundels. Dawson modifies Pugin’s decorative designs to disorienting effect, first using image-editing software and processing techniques to play with patterns and “draw rhythms”. He then skilfully translates these onto canvas, using more traditional materials such as paint, adhesive, and clay slip to build depth and complexity into each work. The twelve multi-layered canvases are elaborate and unpredictable, inviting the viewer to reconsider Pugin’s medievalising aesthetic.

​The Shrine of St Augustine is delighted to host En Avant, which coincides with the completion of the latest stage of a £1.5 million restoration of the Grade I listed building, funded by English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as the opening of a new Visitor Centre on-site. The twelve works will be on display within the cloisters of St Augustine’s from Friday 14 July–Sunday 17 September 2017.

​Text:  Kimberley Chandler