A New Dawn (Oliver Twist) - Canvas Limited Edition

Mark Davies British Artist

  • My original intention when planning this trilogy of works on Charles Dicken’s novel was for this third piece to be a gritty street scene where things hid in the shadows of the slums and showing key details as a focal composition. However the more I worked on this series and became immersed in the narrative whilst forming my own I chose to leave that for several reasons. As a piece it would have and can still work really well but there was a fear that it could just become an image of similar ilk to the hugely popular Asassins Creed video game as that is set within the same period. More importantly though, as my concepts evolved and my narrative built I felt that they were tracking the journey of Oliver and so many of the unfortunate ring fenced souls who would be destined to have no destiny. The complexity and richness of Dicken’s novel means that so many more pieces could and still can be born from his narrative but for now, the end has been laid down in complete and utter open-endedness to leave you be to write the next chapter. This piece showcases the point where the darkest of nights is overpowered by a single selfless act and the sun rises into a new dawn.

    Looking back to my childhood I can’t remember whether I read the book in full, or a simplified version of it before I saw the 1968 screen interpretation but images from that are still vivid, something that wasn’t difficult to watch at that age turned really dark when you witness the murder of Nancy, a prostitute and thief on the bridge by her ‘lover’ and pimp Bill Sykes, come to think about it my studio landlord is called William Skyes, simply known as Bill - uh oh! It was so easy to feel fondness towards Nancy, a rose that fell from the thorns that surrounded it, a true example of why not to judge a book by it’s cover. Seeing, or not fully seeing her brutal murder was the scene that made me feel really sick, it may well have been the first example on TV that I saw someone murdered, maybe that would be less impactful in today’s culture at that age but for me, back then it stuck. So my choice was made, to create a piece that showcased Nancy’s selfless act where she chose to almost silently pay the ultimate price for protecting Oliver and to give him hope and freedom from Fagin’s gang. The selfless hoare.

    On research into the novel when planning this piece it became apparent that Dickens was infatuated by a real-life murder of a Eliza Grimwood, one of the most shocking and infamous of all 19th-century murders. When the Jack the Ripper murders started 50 years later the Daily Telegraph said that if you want to know how ghastly these Whitechapel murders are, they are as bad as the Grimwood murder. The scene where Nancy was murdered also has a deeper resonance. It was one of the novelist's favourites, and in his later stage shows Dickens re-enacted the encounter with dangerously energetic vigour. The effect on his health was serious and close friends blamed the scene for his early death from a stroke at the age of 58. Ultimately I have opted to portray Nancy’s sacrifice to set Oliver free rather than the murder itself, instead leaving behind subtle and poignant details from her character whilst placing a subtle reference to the real-life victim Eliza. The first two pieces were multi-layered where I left detail to show that what you were looking at wasn’t actually set within that Victorian era, instead placing the scene much more current and pointing a finger at the issues that evolved rather than being a subject for History lessons. For ‘A New Dawn’ I wanted to make it conceptual again but in a way that depicted the tide of change rising and sweeping in, washing away at the past and it’s pain.

    ‘A New Dawn’ shows the serene waters of the Thames as the sun breaks through over the stunning St Paul's dome, an ever-present detail within each of the three pieces in this series, a shining beacon of wealth and hope of the minority amongst the darkest and bleakest slums for the masses. A cracking wooden jetty is slowly being engulfed by the rising waters, a darker mind may look at the scene as showing goodness being swallowed up whilst others may take a view that what you see signifies a cleansing process, the uncertainty being what remains when the waters recede. What has gone for ‘good’ whilst what detail refuses to be wiped, what demons resist, what sinks to the bottom in the hope that it won’t be dredged and pulled back to the surface.

    This piece is a beautiful example where hope and light resonates and the darkest of detail is diluted with the overwhelming healing influence from one lost person to another. The detail within the piece is designed to be left open to interpretation but the overriding concept being that you see Oliver walking away from his present towards you, taking off his shoes and hat before walking barefoot out of sight and into his future. A single black boot and a rose that rests against it is what remains of Oliver’s saviour whilst the darkness that surrounded her in life and her murder remain. Withering rope floats in the water, a link to the galleon anchored in the morning mist and a link to the first piece in the series ‘Money For Old Rope’. The message in the bottle could possibly be a story untold by the author who passed away likely as a result from acting out the hurt, or it could possibly be an open letter to Eliza. Caps that float partly submerged in the waters might be for some viewed as harsh, depicting children lost, lost yes but more likely a symbol of how those less fortunate than Oliver were resigned to being effectively lost and pulled down within the criminal underworlds of the city, victims of society.

    I guess ultimately my aim was to create something that was intense, powerful in impact and thought-provoking where something so good could come from something so tragic. For those who really know my work and have taken time to understand some of the most poignant details within my pieces will hopefully embrace the sentiment shown, in this instance the devil isn’t within the detail, far from it, all that is good sweeps in, born from the ever increasing need to know that all hope is not lost. There is something really lovely about the continuous ebbing and flowing of the tides, in sync with each new day and it’s rising sun, a detail that can’t be erased and a silent acknowledgment and comfort that with each night comes our new dawn, we just need to have our eyes open to embrace it

    1. Released: 2021
    2. Collection: Stagecraft
    3. Edition Size: 5 + 1AP
    4. Specification: Limited edition fine art print, hand signed by artist.
    5. Image Size: 36” x 27"
    6. Framed Size (Approx): 43” x 34"
    1. Get in touch for overseas delivery
    2. Please allow approximately 14 days for delivery, should you need delivery sooner please let us know.




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