Sonia Lawson: passions and alarms || Nicholas Usherwood

Sonia Lawson is a largely figurative artist whose work defiantly refuses to be categorised. Just when you think you’ve got a bead on a theme or a thread, it veers off in a completely new direction and escapes being pinned down. Single figures and small groups – some of them almost conventional portraits – can being going about their allotted tasks seemingly unaware of the viewer’s attention, while something like Grieving Women may demand a response or even intervention.

This is a largely chronological survey of Lawson’s work from the 1950’s to the present day and presents a comprehensible and readable account of her life, both artistic and quotidian. It follows her early semi-abstract work through what may be called works-as-witness, a darker period which records injustices – the works that demand a response from the viewer – and on to her current “compressions”. These are a return to abstractionism where layers of paint become like “vegetation becoming coal, a tough, simple parcel packed with pent-up energy.”

Sonia Lawson’s work is never easy and frequently disturbing, seeking to challenge the viewer and posing more questions than answers. Nicholas Usherwood does not attempt to provide these, rather he guides the reader through what can be a maze so that they may be able to provide some of their own.

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