Installation view of Madeleine Joy Dawes’ <em>skin on skin</em> 2022 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Sean Fennessy

Madeleine Joy Dawes

Madeleine Joy Dawes
(b. 1988, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Madeleine Joy Dawes is an emerging artist whose practice explores the act of drawing as a record of time and space. Her works begin with taking photographs, which she edits and arranges in digital graphs, creating maps that are then transcribed onto ruled paper with a lexicon of hand-drawn symbols. Dawes’s focus on temporality and repetition allows her to mediate rather than mirror the autobiographical experiences her images stem from.

damned (if you don’t know by now), 2021, and damned (i let love in), 2021, were first exhibited in a solo show at fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne, and subsequently acquired by the NGV. Dawes’s distinctive technique derives from making her own cross-stitch patterns to embroider, which grew so complex that her templates became standalone works. The language and intimacy of textile-based crafts is evident in these monochrome botanical images, which resemble digital prints. Closer inspection reveals an intricate, tactile notational system, rendered with fibre-tipped pen within a precise grid, revealing the nuances and imperfections of the artist’s hand. Drawn pixel by pixel, Dawes’s formal compositions are destabilised by occasional ink bleeds, misplaced symbols or ruler slips, documenting thought, process and time unfolding throughout the painstaking construction of the works. She develops this technique in two new pieces for Melbourne Now that respond to the tensions of re-navigating relationships and intimacy after the city’s extended COVID-19 lockdowns. skin on skin, 2022, combines graphic text with an image of a folded knitted textile, which speaks of longing and comforting consolations that Dawes sought during the isolation enforced by the pandemic.

After completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at RMIT University (2019), Dawes received residencies at Youkobo Art Space in Japan (2020) and Chalk Hill Artist Residency in the United States (2022) and collaborated with Melbourne fashion label Alpha60 (2021). Recent recognition includes winning the fortyfivedownstairs Emerging Artist Award (2022) and Lyn McCrea Memorial Drawing Prize (2021) and being a finalist in the BAM Art Prize (2022), Alice Prize (2022), Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art (2021) and Dobell Drawing Prize (2019), among others. She has held solo exhibitions in Melbourne and Castlemaine, and has appeared in group shows across Melbourne, Sydney and Townsville.