January 22, 2016
This drawing is an A4 pencil drawing which I worked on in odd moments whilst teaching a Life Drawing workshop at the Sidney Cooper Gallery Drawing Studio in Canterbury. This bit of writing is from my ‘I Draw’ blog (https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/i-draw). It has other drawings. They are all drawings of people, “and that’s all they are. They are drawings done for drawing’s sake (drawing as a way of thinking about drawing). They are drawings of people who were still (or fairly still) for maybe ten or twenty minutes. They are drawings of people but drawings of people are never just hand-made pictures of people. Drawings trace moments in time.
Hand-drawn lines take time and the moment of their making is subtly replayed each time someone spends time to notice them. There are heavy lines, sharp lines, long lines, feathery lines… the variety is endless and each of them implies the presence of a thought. We change our minds as we draw and our lines capture those moments of change. We look and we notice something and we try to track the gist of it on the paper. The time taken to draw even the shortest line is there to see in its entirety all at once (like seeing a tiny life-span played out on the page).
We pay attention to the simple presence of things whenever we draw. The drawing is always wrong. We look again and we make another line. Each time it is wrong in a different way but sometimes the mark is good in spite of its wrongness. Sometimes the line feels true or it does something interesting (something we couldn’t have predicted but which is more interesting than anything we could have predicted). It’s enough that just a small part of a drawing is interesting for it to feel good. As we make our mark we are bringing into play all our momentary perceptions, all our skill and memories of all the other drawings we have ever seen.
Eventually the time is up and the pose ends and all that remains of the moment, and of the protagonists, is the drawing. One day the drawing will be the only thing left of that moment. Perhaps we make ghosts when we draw.
I don’t get to draw people as much as I’d like to. These drawings were done quickly in Life Drawing groups of at odd moments while teaching Life Drawing (in Margate and Canterbury). I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks to date (filled up with drawings like these ones) and the drawings will remain in those books and one day, if they survive longer than I do, they will be in the hands of someone else. I wonder what will become of them.”
January 10, 2016
This is just a quick A4 sketchbook drawing of someone. It’s nothing special but some of its lines have their moments. The model moved quite a lot but that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. If a person repeatedly shifts their position I might work on more than one drawing and flit between them. A drawing is a sort of playing-field on which lines gather and trace the drawer’s changes-of-mind. The attention is repeatedly focused on what is momentarily present in the line of sight. The drawing is what remains of moments spent paying attention to the presence of someone else. I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks and this drawing is in one of the recent ones. I wonder what will become of all these drawings.
Anyway, posting this image also gives me an excuse to let you know that I now have a twitter account and that I’ll use it occasionally and you can follow it if you like. Here’s the link: #royeastlanddraw https://twitter.com/royeastlanddraw
December 20, 2015
Here is a blog post about the ‘Remembering, We Forget: Poets, Artists and the First World War’ exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, from last year. I didn’t post about this exhibition at the time because my laptop wasn’t letting me update this blog at the time. Just now, as I was sorting through old posts and pages, I came across it again and thought it might be of interest to some people out there.
The work referred to here is work I’ve been doing about the victims of the Tontine Street bomb explosion from ‘The Great Folkestone Air Raid’ of 25th May 1917. Andrew Palmer Lectures in Modern Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University and he specialises in poetry of the First World War.
To read his article, CLICK ON: ‘View original post’ (it’s at the bottom of this section of Andrew Palmer’s post). You can also click on ‘Folkestone’ in the list of ‘categories’ to find more about this work.
On 25 May, 1917, a German Gotha dropped a bomb over Folkestone. It exploded amongst a crowd of people queuing outside the Stokes Brothers’ greengrocer in Tontine Street. 71 people were killed, most of them instantly. Some died later of their wounds. This horrific event is commemorated in Roy Eastland’s work, ‘They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…’, which is part of the exhibition Remembering, We Forget, at the Sidney Cooper Gallery until December 17.
The work takes its title from statements made by eye-witnesses – tragic in their naivety. It is made up of a series of 68 small panels, each one dedicated to a single victim, containing handwritten information and sometimes images, taken from newspaper reports and the remembrances of those who knew them. Eastland draws in silverpoint – that is, he scratches the word and faces onto boards prepared with gesso, a…
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December 19, 2015
Site of … 2004-2009, graphite, emulsion, tissue, gesso, varnish on board (13.5cm x 57cm)
From about 2002 until about 2009 I worked on a lot of panoramic ‘views’ of Margate. These drawings took the view of Margate (as seen from the high and low tide lines) as their starting point. The pieces were drawn into and written over and obscured with paint and sanded (or paint-stripped) back again. Most of the work never made it to any kind of completion (most were either destroyed in the process or were abandoned).
My 2004 solo exhibition, at Archeus in London, was mostly comprised of this kind of work. At about this time I had a lot of conversations, about my work, with the philosopher and academic Iain MacKenzie. I think his description of my work at that time is very good and so, rather than repeat some of the things I’ve written in previous blog posts, I’ll share the essay that he wrote for my 2004 solo show at Archeus Fine Art (Albemarle Street, London). By the way, the essay is also interesting in that it was written at a stage in Margate’s ‘culture led regeneration’ (or is it gentrification?), before Turner Contemporary was built.
Margate seen from the high tide line. 2007 graphite, ink, emulsion, varnish on paper (4.5cm x 20.5cm)
‘Roy Eastland: Art on a Line’ by Dr Iain MacKenzie 2004
Roy Eastland’s Art is an art of the line and in his artwork the line serves a multitude of purposes. His views of Margate take the line of the seashore as their predominant point of perspective, coaxing the gaze of holiday-makers and residents alike away from the vista of the open sea back to the Georgian geometry of the sea-front façade. The transformation of the sight-lines associated with this, the original, sea-side town brings a change of perspective that charts the changing nature of Margate itself. Margate is no longer the hotspot for Victorians seeking revitalisation and purification by the waters, nor can it claim to be the ‘East-End-of-London-by-the-sea’ that defined it through the first half of the twentieth century. Margate is looking at itself, at how it can redefine itself in a rapidly changing local, national and international environment. Eastland’s art not only reflects on this period of change it expresses it in every line of its scratched surfaces and taut execution.
Lines in Eastland’s art do more than create new perspectives of space. They are also a way of incorporating an historical dimension into the work. Technically, this occurs in the careful layering of different stages of the work, each layer marking the previous one and leaving a trace in the one that follows. The result is an art of memory, trace and recollection in two senses. First, the artworks contain, within themselves, the traces or their own production to the point where it no longer makes sense to demarcate in Eastland’s art the process of production from the point of completion. Each artwork is complete in itself only by virtue of being a product in perpetual process, a feature that binds the different artworks themselves into a unified but open- ended and on-going artistic project. Secondly, Eastland’s art is thematically guided by the complexities of memory and recollection in that it represents the conjunction of past, present and future as an on-going process of deconstruction, reconstruction and , pure and simple, construction. Moments of intensity from the past (the passing of a Zeppelin over the Clock Tower) seamlessly blend together with significant events in the present (the fire that left a gaping void in the sea-front façade) to create a new Margate, Margate with a new future.
But lines are also the basis for writing and it is no coincidence that an artist of the line chooses to mark each layer of the artwork with text. Fragments of text are drawn from overheard conversations, family reminiscences, maps and thoughts to create interpretive resonances and dissonances within the work itself that put paid to any easy or overly simplistic attempt to express what Margate is becoming. Iconic names stand out amongst the text: the Nayland Rock Hotel, site of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall’s wedding banquet in 1990 and now a holding centre for ‘asylum seekers’; The Droit House, once the home of the Harbour commission now housing the displays that announce the building of the Turner Contemporary art gallery: and, perhaps most of all, Dreamland, the once famous but now derelict amusement park whose name itself captures the mix of landscape and imagination so important to Eastland’s approach to art itself. Indeed, the language of Eastland’s art is at its most evocative and expressive when it uses simple descriptions and names of markers of intense change.
And yet, for Eastland, the line is not simply a compositional, processual or representational device, it is also a way of creating a relationship of intensity between the work itself and the viewer. As well as seeing the lines of his work as a means to redirect our gaze, or the traces of a layered process of production, or the representation of people’s movements along the sea-front façade (those who are dead, living and not yet born), the sheer intensity of the deep scars that punctuate the vistas he produces direct the viewer beyond the superficial rhetoric of ‘art-appreciation’ towards a process of reflection on art and life, The repeated reworking of lines through the depth of the surfaces he creates full-stops in the rhythms of the text and images that unsettle any attempted harmonisation of the artwork with the viewer’s expectations of both Margate and ‘Margate-art’. When the artwork itself is so deeply scored with the trajectories and movements of life any understanding of the work as art must express these trajectories and movements in itself. The result is an artwork with life that creates a moment to reflect upon one’s own life as a work of art. Indeed, it no coincidence that his life-drawings capture this dynamism in its purest form as each drawn and re-drawn human curves brings depth and movement into the often shallow and lifeless practice of portraiture. Eastland’s art, we might say, is an art of the line that gives a new impetus to the line of life that runs through us all; as individuals, as communities, as people with a past, present and future.
In this way, Eastland’s art does not refer to a critical tradition of aesthetics based on refining the regimes of judgement; the modern Kantian tradition of art criticism is simply inappropriate for grasping the intricacies of an art of the line as sophisticated as Eastland’s. Rather, his art calls upon new and emergent vocabularies of aesthetics that decentre the process of judgement and bring categories and affect to the fore. His art is less a matter of taste as judgements and more a materialisation of taste as sensation. It brings to mind Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of art as that creates a ‘bloc of sensations’ such that the work of art is ‘a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself’ (What is Philosophy?, Verso, 1994, p164). On this criterion, Eastland’s art is not to be simply appreciated or judged as art (or not). Instead, it composes sensations in the artwork itself that change our experience of the subject of his art (Margate becomes a Dream Land) which in turn transform the subjects who view his art through intense affects of dislocation and punctuation) in ways that resist prescription and dogmatism (by bringing the potential for change and chance into the process of production and, crucially, of perception). All of which can be said to bring the sensation of chaos into being, but it is a chaos that is composed, organised and, therefore, truly transformative of settled habits of opinion. As Deleuze and Guattari summarise it: ‘the artist brings back from the chaos varieties that no longer constitute a representation of the sensory… but set up a being of the sensory, a being of sensation on…[a] plane of composition that is able to restore the infinite’ (What is Philosophy?, p202/3). Margate is not simply whatever we assume it to be and Eastland’s art manifests this intense critical gesture by creating a new sense of the infinite possibilities within this sea-side town coming to terms with the fact that it is always on the move. Eastland’s art expresses this in every movement of its being: the infinite as a line into the future composed by an exemplary artist of the line.
Iain MacKenzie lives in Margate and is the author of The Idea of Pure Critique (Continuum, 2004).
December 19, 2015
Here are some drawings from a series of drawings about Arromanches (a seaside town in Normandy which was the location of the Mulberry Harbour, after D-Day in The Second World War). I worked on these small, mixed media (graphite, emulsion, ink and varnish), drawings between about 2006 and 2009. Their starting point was my memories of my dad’s memories of D-Day and the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches and about a few photographs and post cards of the town that he brought back with him as souvenirs.
One of the photographs was of a rough sea hitting the seafront (I presume this photograph was taken before the war) and this became a repeated point of reference for a number of drawings (I remember being told about the storm that wrecked the Mulberry harbour). The have been repeatedly re-worked and include writing as well as images. ‘Mulberry’, for example, is based on a postcard view of the town and the sea but my version includes my hand-written notes which locate various remembered details and events. As with a lot of my other work, this drawing was worked on over a long period of time and at some points in the process the words were more visible and other times the image was the focus of the piece. ‘East Kent Daily Time Slip’ (scroll down the home page to find an image of it) is one of the drawings that were based on the view of a wave hitting the seafront. The title comes from my memory of my dad using East Kent Bus Company ‘time slips’ to make simple, schematic, drawings of things as he explained events and views. ‘East Kent Daily Time Slip’ was also the title of my solo exhibition at Marine Studios in Margate.
Various drawings from this body of work have been shown at various times at various venues including: Marine Studios (Margate), Beaux Arts (Bath), Millennium (St Ives) and The Hastings Museum and Art Gallery.
December 17, 2015
Dreamland Tree 2011 (silverpoint on acrylic gesso, 8cm x 9cm) is a small drawing of a tree which used to occupy a triangular patch of land between roads near the old entrance to Dreamland (an old amusement park in the East Kent seaside town of Margate for those who don’t know). It’s a kind of souvenir of a place and of something that once lived there. At the time of making the drawing the tree was still alive. I had intended to do a series of drawings of trees, buildings and bridges that were to become a series of ‘wonders of Margate’. This didn’t come to pass at the time but I still have some ideas relating to this which I might develop sometime in the future. Here’s part of what I wrote at the time:
“Dreamland Tree… is one of a possible series of ‘portraits’ of certain trees, buildings and other places which hold particular memories and associations. Whenever I pass by this tree it conjures various memories (childhood memories of Dreamland, of motorbikes parked underneath its leaves, of the number 52 bus which passed either side of it and which would often be driven by my Dad …and so on). This tree has grown and occupied this particular location over a span of time. It has been looked at or half-noticed by countless numbers of people en route to the seafront or Dreamland but one day it will no longer be here…”
Not long after I created a page for it the tree was damaged (it looked like a large section had deliberately been cut away from its bark) and then it died and finally was cut down. Trees grow into their particular place and their shape is influenced by the particular characteristics of where they grow. For example, two trees growing close to each other will spread outwards from each other and when one is chopped down the ‘ghost’ of its presence is ‘remembered’ in the shape of the one still standing. This tree grew in its own space surrounded by buildings and tarmac. I thought this tree was a lovely but almost unnoticed thing which could suggest the idea of lives lived in a place. I showed it in my solo exhibition at Marine Studios, Margate, and then it went on to Beaux Arts gallery, in Bath, for a group show. I might revisit this idea in the future.
December 16, 2015
This drawing was selected for the 2006 Jerwood Drawing Prize. The image you can see here is a scan taken from a photograph I took of it when it was on show at the Jerwood Art Space in London. The drawing is behind glass and so it’s not a sharp image but it will do. It’s a small drawing of about five by six centimetres or possibly even a smaller (the dimensions stated in the exhibition catalogue describe the size of the frame rather than the artwork and the reproduction in the catalogue is a lot bigger than the real thing). It’s a drawing of my dad. The title of the drawing (‘A N Eastland’) comes from my copy of his signature (his mark). It could also be read literally as ‘an Eastland’.
The drawing was built up through a process of repeated re-drawing. The face you see in this drawing is only the last version of many drawings of a number of different photo booth images that were drawn over each other. The face was drawn, painted over, sanded down, and then another face was drawn over the traces and then the process was repeated over and over.
This drawing strategy (of repeated obscuration and re-drawing) is employed for a variety of reasons. It brings in an element of unpredictability into the process (the drawing ‘returns’ to me as a slightly unfamiliar thing each time it is re-drawn). The process mimics processes we might associate with the passing of time (of archaeological traces for example) and of memory. It might also bring to mind the way we see the same things differently at different times. There is never really an end-point to any of my drawings: work on them simply stops once they are framed and presented as works of art (I sometimes need the deadline of an exhibition to force me to bring a drawing to a conclusion).
My drawings are often individual works which can stand alone as distinct works of art. This way of working has been forced on me by the fact that I lack the financial means to be able to work on more than a few pieces at a time. I’m not complaining; necessity is often the cause of virtue, and these separate, individual, drawings relate to all my other drawings (through their recurring focus on themes relating to memory, trace and presence) and I like the idea of making small, intimate, works of art.
[Click on ‘Jerwood Drawing Prize’ on the list of ‘categories’ for other drawings that were selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2009 and 2013.]