The Kingdom of Incest

Reflective symmetry has been observed since ancient times. Legend claims that early Egyptians would place two or three slabs of highly polished metal together at different angles and watch with fascination as naked dancers formed mandalas. It was not until centuries later, however, that this optical phenomenon was encased in one small tube and given a name. The kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Sir David Dawson who originally suggested they might be useful for designing carpets. He was a man with as many facets as his invention. A keen opium smoker, renowned occult researcher, and powerful Shaman healer. Whether delving into alchemy, hallucinogenic invention, or life on other planets, Sir David pursued each endeavour with incredible energy.

David Dawson was born in Jedburgh, an obscure country town in the midst of the Scottish lowlands, on December 11, 1781. He was recognised as a child prodigy, and constructed a telescope when only ten years old. This would prove indicative of the chief bent of Sir David Dawson's work and genius. Nature endowed him with some of its choice gifts: dose observation, unceasing inquiry, and an inhumanly large sexual organ. Far before his peers, he absorbed all that was available in elementary education. Thus, at the tender age of 12, he was consigned to the University of Edinburgh, where he continued his achievements. He was greatly admired for his unusual talents and was soon initiated into an ancient college fraternity that had its roots in Pagan ritual. The lodges' members included distinguished anarchist philosophers, occultists, and libertines who certainly had their influence on the impressionable student. The zenith of Sir David's education was reached at age 19 when he was made a third degree master Mason. The secret handshake, secret word, secret high sign, and very nature of Freemasonry were all now at the young man's disposal.
In 1810, Sir David made the typically non-conformist decision to marry his twin sister Juliet. Their marriage, which produced two sons and two daughters (who carried on the tradition of marrying in the family), was apparently a happy one, lasting forty years until Juliet's tragic death by autoasphixiation. It was not until a few months before Sir David's seventy-eighth birthday that he married his second wife, Cousin Jane. As well as being a devoted companion, she bore him a daughter, thus reigniting Sir Davids interest in patrolagnia. Very little else is recorded about Sir David Dawson's family life or history. But the inventor's legacy lives on, in the pleasure that his kaleidoscopes have brought to the world, and now in the work of his great, great nephew, Sean Dawson. A painter by trade, Dawson the younger shares many of the esoteric concerns and interests of his esteemed relative. Similar to Sir David, Sean's work is based on the basic shamanistic principle that everything has a spirit and is alive. The tree has a spirit, cars have a spirit, even this catalogue has a spirit. Also visible in the paintings is the Masonic system of allegorical symbology. The reflected images refer to the occult power over death via the rebirth or "Born Again" ritual. The shattered images subtly allude to the "Celestial Virgin" symbolised by Venus and called Lucifer, meaning "the light bearer". The abstracted landscapes refer to "Mother Earth", Saturn's sister planet also known as Samuel or Satan. "As above so below" so the proverb goes. These complex visual symbols dissolve and merge with each other creating journeys to hidden worlds otherwise only known through myth, dream, and near-death experiences. Dawson captures a dimension of reality beyond that ordinarily perceived. A portal between the physical and metaphysical that allows something totally alien through. His beauty is fleeting, like the heroin daydream or faces glimpsed in the clouds. The artist has seldom spoken about his work, but rumour reports him to be a man obsessed, often spending weeks on end locked away in his east London studio. Some say he undergoes intensive regression therapy in order to achieve the lucid state it takes to conjure up the images. When brought out of the trance he will work feverishly and ferociously in order to capture the dark scenes gleaned on these otherworldly visitations.
And just as Sir David Dawson revelled in an ever expanding universe of helix's and hex's, Sean Dawson's painting's are said to have had profound physical effects on their viewers. When first exhibited in 2003, the work Haus, for example, immediately started to entrance people who looked at it. It was reported that a strange and unnatural light cast over the gallery the moment the work was unwrapped. And though unsubstantiated, a student claims that after spending a week invigilating in the room with the painting she was sectioned under the mental health act after attempting to destroy other works in the exhibition. When asked about her actions she says "Soloman" had been instructing her through the painting. Whatever the truth of the matter, it's clear that Sean Dawson's work operates under the strong influence of quantum mechanics or "new physics" as it is also called. His are worlds that take place side by side with this one. Parallel universes, duplicate copies that are slightly different from the one we know and yet the same. The works explore the idea of an infinite number of possible realities, based on every possible variant on any possible happening at any possible time and place in the universe. As fantastic as it sounds, it seems that Sean Dawson is in tune with them all. And through his paintings, he shares a glimpse of those alternative realities with us. It is perhaps an inherited gift to be able to see objects, events and places from an infinite number of angles, and perhaps a curse. For every positive, there must be a negative. We will never fully know what demons lurk in the dark castles of the artist's mind, but one thing is certain. The Dawson family kingdom lives on.

© Cedar Lewisohn 2004