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In conversation with Gabriel Dawe

Dan Webb
Gabriel Dawe uses thread to create awe-inspiring meticulous site-specific installations which blur the lines between fashion and architecture; material and immaterial space.

Is your choice of vivid colour in your work a conscious attempt to reconnect with your upbringing in Mexico City?
It’s more an integral part of who I am as an artist. Growing up in Mexico, which is a culture that’s not afraid of color, is what influenced that part of myself. I know that it comes from my upbringing, but I use color because it gives me joy and fills me with enthusiasm. So I see it more as a natural part of my process than a desire to connect with my upbringing.

One of the key aspects of my work is that it is attempting to make a physical representation of that which is immaterial. So I see it as a bridge between the two worlds.

You have explored themes such as gender roles, pain and fear in your 2D and sculpture work. What do your installation pieces express?
I see the installation work as an expansion on earlier work. It still has connections to those things present in my earlier work, albeit in a more subtle way. The installations started as a big experiment in a desire to break free from the scale limitation of the work I was doing. Early on, I discovered that the work had a connection with light and that idea of representing light took over not only formally with the use of the full spectrum, but also conceptually, attempting to bring light into a space and hopefully make people connect with a deep sense of transcendence within themselves.

Your previous work as a graphic designer would appear to be worlds apart from architectural and fashion design. What led to the creation of your first full-scale installation piece?
As I mentioned above, the desire to expand on the scale of the work I was doing was one of the first ingredients. I had some abstract ideas in my mind on how to do that, but the main catalyst for the installation work was my research for a collaboration with an architect specifically for a show that aimed to explore links between fashion and architecture. The first piece in my studio came about exploring with the materials of my work, which are closely related to fashion, and using them in an architectural scale. In that particular instance, I decided to use thread and cover a whole wall.

What is the significance of immaterial space in your work?
One of the key aspects of my work is that it is attempting to make a physical representation of that which is immaterial. So I see it as a bridge between the two worlds.

Do you use any computer-aided design to assist you?
I don’t use any 3D rendering nor algorithms to help me create the installations. I’ve done close to 50 of them, so by now, I have a really good understanding of the principles at work.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
One of the biggest challenges is balancing the creative part of a project with the pragmatic. I make a living out of what I create, and that means that I have to handle the business part of it. I don’t think creative people enjoy that aspect that much, at least I don’t. But it’s the part that sustains my practice so honoring that side has to be important even though it doesn’t come naturally to me.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
I would have loved to collaborate with Alexander McQueen creating fabrics for his collections.