Hazy Shades of Winter: Allison Hawkins’s Inky Otherworld

There’s something haunting about the works of artist Allison Hawkins. Maybe it’s the delicate washes of color that she uses, her palette of inky colors, or the hints of animals and figures she portrays, but her works call forth an eerie sense of the familiar, as though they are composed of distant recollections or fragments of a half-remembered fairytale.

Hawkins uses a mix of graphite, colored pencil, watercolor, ink, and charcoal to create her gauzy, atmospheric compositions. The works often consist of a few figures on a blank paper ground, with only the most subtle hints of colors breaking through the mostly-grayscale palette, like the details of an animal’s eye—as in Mountains (2014)—or the swirling leaves in Autumn Road (2012). The limited use of color gives the works a sense of cold, northern light, as though her scenes are frozen in the in-between moments of dusk and dawn—and her spare palette also demands that the viewer take a closer look.

“I am drawn to a bleak feeling in the land, one of darkness and possible melancholy. Think about wind through the leaves at night,” says Hawkins of her work’s somber appeal. “However, there are points of comfort.” That comfort, she says, comes in the form of the creatures she creates, which populate her world and move throughout the works like friendly visitors. They also act as guardian figures and as stand-ins for human relationships and emotions. She refers to the drawings not as pictures of animals, but as portraits of them, fully imbued with personality and feelings of their own.

Even amid the dark of night, the works are filled with moments of hope and joyful spontaneity. In Sisterhood of the Night (2012), a group of women—perhaps a coven—dances in the darkness. In Guarded Cavern (2012), it is a pair of chubby animals, seemingly distracted and hardly menacing in blue and yellow, that serve to protect the space. And then there are those rainbow-colored leaves in Autumn Road. In her work, Hawkins has found a way to conjure an entire world, one filled with emotion, warmth, darkness and tension, with just the sparest of gestures. 

Heather Corcoran

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