Hawkes’ Bright Inner Light
Pam Hawkes is a figure painter whose enchanted, sedately seductive work is based on the traditions of Renaissance portraiture. In her work, Hawkes mythologizes her life experiences into beautiful images. Hawkes explains she doesn’t want to impose the narratives of her own life onto others, but still allegorically conveys her story through her paintings — akin to the old women telling stories around the fire, the kind of stories that instruct and warn and impart wisdom.
Typically, Hawkes doesn’t start out with a clear or specific idea, instead relying on the painting process to guide her to where it needs to go with just a very vague notion of what she’s working towards. She’s convinced that experimentation is crucial to the discoveries that push her creative work forward. She rejects the ‘preciousness’ of a painting; instead she delights in the fluidity and changeability of a painting in flux without worrying about the end result. Describing her process as “chaotic,” she works directly with paint onto metal leaf without a preliminary sketch. She finds the history of the painting — i.e., the marks and traces left from the trajectory — the most fascinating.
Highly inspired by medieval manuscripts, her work is rich with translucent glazes over metal leaf which give her paintings luxurious warmth and luminous depth. She explains, “The luster of precious metals is part of our collective human understanding. It is so culturally steeped in us that translation of its meaning is unnecessary. We instinctively know what they symbolize.” It’s very important to her that the metal leaf glows through the paint, retaining those accidental marks that make it beautiful and interesting.
Hawkes Unraveling is based on her self-described “pathological need” for chaos. She celebrates improvisation in the certainty of not knowing what’s next, and not wanting to look ahead because life intervenes to spoil one’s plans. Yet in this painting she symbolically holds on to those fragments of wishes, longings, and dreams that hold life together — portrayed here as an unraveling headdress — while showing serenity, strength, and…