Painting, motif and place come together in the tender portraits of Bob Dilworth

PROVIDENCE — Bob Dilworth’s lavish paintings in “Another Place” at Cade Tompkins Projects are tender portraits of people and places dear to him. They are also voluminous and tangled representations of the ethereal.

This other place is both precise and indefinable: it is his hometown, and it is the matrix of memory, love and spirit rooted there. Love may well be his aesthetic; in 2018, he painted a series entitled “Black love matters.”

Dilworth, born in 1951, grew up in Lawrenceville, Virginia., a small town 70 miles south of Richmond. He lives in Providence but often travels to Lawrenceville and has recently begun recording oral history interviews with friends and family. He photographed the decor of their homes. People gave him samples of wallpaper fabrics and upholstery.

He cuts these textiles and layers them into paintings, transforming tangible memories into images. Dilworth’s canvases are as much about the alchemical power of paint as they are about pattern and identity.

Bob Dilworth, “Margaret”, 2015-2019, oil and acrylic paint, spray paint, fabric, paper doily photo transfer to canvas.Courtesy of Artist and Cade Tompkins Projects

Many of his subjects are resting. Using fabrics as launching pads for pictorial improvisation, Dilworth creates verdant gardens around them, connecting the underworld of sleep with that of creation. In “Margaret”, her elderly mother relaxes in a chair with her eyes closed. She appears again, in an outline of black spray paint, perhaps as the part of her consciousness drifting in dreams. A stalk of shimmering royal blue fabric rises to the right; peach-colored roses bloom at her feet; the bouquets hover. It is difficult to discern what is painting and what is textile.

In “Lawrenceville Landscape #2”, dark green tapestry vines dance with ghostly stems painted mint green. White paper-cut flowers delicately spread across the surface and whispering painted balls echo them. A chain link pattern in the background separates this generative paradise from a much less lively street.

Bob Dilworth, “Lawrenceville Landscape #2”, 2021, acrylic paint, spray paint, ink, paper, fabric, marker on canvas.Courtesy of Artist and Cade Tompkins Projects

The artist appears three times in “Self Portrait”: as a sleeping young man, an older man sitting on the bed, and an elderly man sitting beside it. Dilworth’s handling of paint is virtuosic. In fabric and paint, roses invade the floor. The thick impasto of the hydrangeas above the figures matches the lushness of the flower itself. They sit against swirling swirls of berry red paint that threaten to hypnotize.

Dilworth uses paint as a medium to evoke the spirit world. There’s no better subject for this than the people and places that made it.

BOB DILWORTH: ANOTHER PLACE

At Cade Tompkins Projects, 198 Hope St., Providence, until September 2. Open by appointment. 401-751-4888, www.cadetompkinsprojects.com


Cate McQuaid can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.

About Catharine C. Bean

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