PERSPECTIVES. AN INTRODUCTION TO DAVID SAWYER'S SOLO EXHIBITION BY MARK WILTSHIRE, MA ENGLISH, OXFORD

Published: 19 October 2016


I know many of these perspectives. The Sheldonian Theatre from Broad Street; the Gateway to Chinatown coming off Gerrard Place; the Grand Canal from the Ponte dell'Accademia. I have seen them all from these same viewpoints, perhaps even occupied these same square feet of concrete. But Sawyer's paintings make me want to see these scenes as he saw them - at those moments of the day when the light is strangest and best.

Sawyer exhibits a wonderful ability to capture different forms of daylight, to create an atmosphere around the time and tone of the day. He seems to encourage the sun to shine with conviction, while allowing some areas to remain quietly in the shade. Likewise, his eye seems to revel in the soft, calming twilight hours of the vibrant European cities he paints.

I remember walking along Broad Street towards a seminar on Wordsworth when I was studying towards an English degree at Oxford. My memories of the place are no longer completely fresh in my mind but I can recall the faceless abundance of cyclists, the sense of potential, my pride, and the feeling of being directed as well as burdened by the weight of history. A student at an Oxford college will always be haunted by the fact that the University has been visited by successive generations before them and will exist long after they have graduated.

What excites me about Sawyer's work is that it seems to acknowledge this feeling. His Oxford, grand and splendid like his Lisbon, Sicily, and Venice, is only sparsely populated and its few figures are anonymous and in motion, just out of focus. They are temporary and occasional beings, standing in plain contrast to the named and immediately recognisable architecture, to the imposing Radcliffe Camera rearing up above the skyline. The accuracy and detail of Sawyer's buildings tell us that these are his focus and they hold the power in these works.

David Sawyer: An Exhibition of New Paintings. Until Saturday 5th November.