I’m having a small solo exhibition at the Young Gallery in Salisbury where I’m showing eleven silverpoint drawings and sixteen sketchbooks. The work is on display in two, large, museum cabinets.
In one cabinet is a line of silverpoint portraits based on photo booth images of my Mum. They were most likely done for bus passes. The photos I’ve drawn from are the mistimed and unflattering ones which were never used. I like them because they capture familiar facial expressions and the hints of personality which better posed photographs would not have caught.
The photographs are starting points; the drawings are not straightforward copies. They slowly emerge out of the painstaking drawing process of repeated loss and revision. The works are scratched away and redrawn so that the results are traces of time as much as they are drawings of people.
I’ve also included handwriting, which too is a kind of drawing. The texts are made up of lines of remembered speech and familiar stories repeatedly rewritten and altered in each retelling. Some phrases and words become more prominent over time but complete sentences are hard to see and the presence of all is fragile, like a memory.
These drawings condense moments in time into traces of touch. They take time to do and the sense of time is subtly replayed whenever someone spends time to look at them.
A note about silverpoint drawings:
Silverpoint drawings are made by drawing a point of silver wire across a prepared surface onto which tiny traces of metal are deposited. These traces are extremely subtle; pressing the point harder will not make the line any darker or its presence any stronger. The lines are permanent but they can be scratched away (think of mark left by a key dragging across an emulsion-painted wall and you get a rough idea of the medium’s qualities). The delicacy of silverpoint makes it an appropriate medium for an art about presence, trace and memory.
These two silverpoint drawings are of people posing in fancy dress somewhere in Margate. One drawing is of people in the 1930s and the other is of people in the 2010s.
Both are currently on display at the Young Gallery in Salisbury in a small solo exhibition running alongside an exhibition of British 20th century paintings chosen from the Arts Council collection by the curator Peter Riley. I’m showing eleven silverpoint works and sixteen sketchbooks.
‘Margate Creatives, 2010s’ is based on a Facebook post from a Margate-themed party, held a few years ago at The Lido, Cliftonville, Margate. It shows two women in fancy dress. One is dressed as an estate agents’ sign and the other is dressed as a local businessman. Margate is currently experiencing the mixed blessings of ‘cultural regeneration’.
‘Margate Imperialists, 1930s’ is a group portrait based on a small postcard photograph found at an antique fair. The people in this drawing might be dressed for an Empire Day event or something similar. Here we see cliched depictions of working class, ethnic and foreign ‘types’ surrounding a young woman dressed as Britannia. Any similarities between anyone in this drawing and anyone currently living in Margate or Cliftonville are coincidental.
The choices of costume in both of these images are interesting and they both express something about the social attitudes of their times and places.
I’m in the habit of numbering my sketchbooks once they are full. The present tally is a hundred and seventy-five. I’m showing sixteen of these at The Young Gallery in Salisbury as part of a solo exhibition (which also includes eleven silverpoint drawings) which is currently running alongside the exhibition, ‘20th century Figurative Art – Arts Council Collection’, curated by Peter Riley.
The drawings in these sketchbooks are of people. A lot of them were done at odd moments during the various Life Drawing classes I teach in Margate. None of them have taken more than about thirty minutes. None of them were done with the intention of showing them to anyone. These drawings were done purely for the sake of drawing and as a way to think about drawing.
It’s a strange privilege to spend time looking at somebody and to do nothing else but draw them. We don’t usually look at things for very long. We think we do but we don’t. The act of drawing someone is an affectionate and open-minded act of paying attention to their presence. We change our minds when we draw. The errors are really just the traces of our changes of mind. We have to change our minds about what we think we see if we are to have any hope of making a worthwhile drawing. Sometimes something interesting comes into play. That something might be nothing more than a line which could not have been predicted and which shows us that there is another way to see things.
Life Drawings say: ‘This was the case for a while and these are the traces of a mind engaged in the careful act of noticing someone else’s presence’.
I’ve been installing the work for my upcoming exhibition at The Young Gallery in Salisbury. This small solo exhibition of sixteen sketchbooks and eleven silverpoint drawings will occupy two large museum cabinets and is set to run alongside an exhibtion of British 20th century paintings chosen, from the Arts Council Collection, by the curator Peter Riley. ‘20th century Figurative Art – Arts Council Collection’ will include work by Craigie Aitchison, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, Ken Kiff, Euan Uglow, David Hockney and Lucian Freud.
My drawings are displayed in two large cabinets each containing silverpoint drawings and sketchbooks. The silverpoint drawings can be grouped into three different, but related, sections. On one side of the free-standing cabinet is a piece entitled “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…”. This drawing consists of sixty-eight panels containing small portrait drawings and hand-written text representing the individuals killed in an air raid in Folkestone in 1917. The title comes from an eye witness account of seeing the German, Gotha, bombers high-up overhead in the early evening sunlight just moments before the bomb exploded amidst a queue standing outside a greengrocer’s shop. Each person has a panel with their name and age and a description of their injury and some information about their life. Where I could find no visual reference for a particular individual the space for that person’s portrait remains blank.
On the other side of this cabinet are two silverpoint drawings based on found images of people in fancy dress: ‘Margate Creatives, 2010s’ and ‘Margate Imperialists, 1930s’. Each shows people dressed for a fancy dress event. The choice of costumes in both of these images hint at the social and political attitudes of people who were present in Margate both recently and eighty years ago.
The choices of costume (someone dressed for a Margate-themed party as an estate agent’s ‘SOLD’ sign and people dressed up as working class and foreign ‘types’) draw attention to questions of taste and self-expression, and of identity and colonialism.
In the largest cabinet is a line of three sets of small silverpoint portraits which are based on photo booth images: ‘Tuesday NOV 22 1983’, ‘Photo booth portrait’ and ‘1996 bus pass portrait’. Here are drawings of someone in a moment of stillness in their life; a moment which no one else witnessed and which hardly mean anything at all other than the fact that they draw attention to the fact that someone was present somewhere for a moment in time. These works also contain blocks of hand-written text (another kind of drawing).
Along the bottom of each of the cabinets is a line of opened sketchbooks showing more drawings of people. These drawings were done for the sake of drawing and for the sake of thinking about drawing and for no other reason. They are drawings of the moment and were not made as preparatory drawings for ‘finished’ works of art; they are complete in their ‘unfinishedness’ as traces of time spent paying attention to the presence of people being still.
A drawing is the meeting point of moments. A drawing can say: ‘See! This was the case and these are the traces of a mind paying attention to the presence of things. Here! These lines are points of convergence of past, present and future and we are all still here’.
If you are interested in seeing these drawings you can visit the exhibition from 9th June until 25th August. There will be a private view on 20th June (contact the gallery for an invite) and I’ll be teaching some Life Drawing workshops at the gallery as well.
I shall write in more depth about these drawings in future blog posts.
I’ll be having an exhibition at The Young Gallery in Salisbury from 9th June until 25th August. It’ll be a solo show to augment the exhibition of British 20th century paintings, selected from The Arts Council collection by the gallery’s curator Peter Riley. My work will be shown in two large cabinets (very snazzy, new, glass, museum cabinets) and I have settled on a working title: ‘People being still somewhere’.
The drawings I plan to show will be a mix of framed silverpoint drawings, unframed silverpoint drawings and a selection of sketchbooks which will be open at pages containing drawings of people. I’ve yet to decide on which particular drawings to show but what all these have in common is that they are drawings of people being still and, in a way, that stillness is brought into view through the drawings.
Those people were present somewhere and are still present in the drawings even though the people themselves are gone. Drawings are always traces of things which are no longer here. I like to think of drawings as the traces of an event – the event being the time spent paying careful, and affectionate, attention to the presence of something or of someone. The drawing is never merely an illustration of what something looked like. Drawings acknowledge the presence of time and the presence of human touch.
The sketchbook drawings were done directly from life and so the presence of those moments and of the people in those moments are directly implied in all the lines and marks on the page. The silverpoint drawings have a subtler connection to that original moment of stillness. The camera image captures a moment but a drawing takes time to bring into being and they also take time for the viewer to see. Each little line and each little mark represents the passing of time. I hope people spend time with these drawings and wonder about the people the drawings represent.
The exhibition will run from 9th June until the 25th August. I shall be doing an ‘In Conversation’ about my work and also a number of Life Drawing sessions. Contact the gallery for details about these and/or following this blog for future details.
Also, I shall be teaching some Life Drawing workshops at the gallery and also an ‘in conversation’ talk. I’ll let you know when these are on closer to the time.
I’ll be having an exhibition at The Young Gallery, Salisbury, from 9th June until the 25th August. My work will be displayed in two very large display cabinets alongside an exhibition of paintings by British 20th figurative artists which will include works by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, Ken Kiff, Leon Kossoff, Euan Uglow, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. My work will augment the main exhibition but will be, in effect, a small solo show.
As the deadline for hanging the work draws closer I have to make some decisions regarding what I’d like to show and why. At the moment I’m thinking along the lines of showing a number of sketchbooks, some framed silverpoint drawings and some recent unframed silverpoint drawings.
The image for this blog post is of three of these recent pieces.
These works are about the size of A5 and are drawn with silver on gesso on board. They’re based on found photographs of people photographed in Germany I the 1930s and 1940s. I’ve been finding the photographs separately and at different times in a junk shop in Cliftonville, Margate. I don’t know who the people in the pictures are or how their portraits made their way to Margate. I suspect that some of the people might have known each other. I can’t possibly know this for certain but I think it’s quite likely that some of the photographs came to the shop as part of a bundle, or a collection.
What we can tell about someone from the way they look? If they were alive in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s they would have had direct experience of life during the Nazi era of German history. How does knowing that my drawings are of German people living in that period of time affect our thoughts about what kinds of people they were? What became of them?
My drawings of these people are not simply copies of photographs but I have tried to be loyal to what I can make of their images. Perhaps I’m saying: “Here are people being still somewhere”. They were present in the moment captured by the camera image, and by drawing them I make them present as works of art, here and now. They are connected with Margate (my home town) by the fact that their images were found in Margate, but I wonder if there are other connections too. Who knows?
This drawing is a work in progress. If it reaches a conclusion it might take part in a show I’ll be having at the Young Gallery, in Salisbury, which begins on the 9th June. It is one of an ongoing series of drawings of unknown (unknown to me) people who were photographed in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
What can we tell about a person from how they appear to us? The repeated point of reference with each of these drawings are photographs found in a Margate second hand shop. I wonder what became of these people? I wonder what draws me to pay this careful and time-consuming attention to these traces of small moments in strangers’ lives? Why do I want to resurrect them through drawing?
I have about four weeks until I hang my work for a show at The Young Gallery, in Salisbury. This show has been on my mind for months but I’ve yet to settle on definite plan as to what to show and how to show it.
My work will be shown alongside an exhibition of work from the Arts Council collection of figurative painters. The main exhibition is called ‘20th century Figurative Art – Arts Council Collection’ and will include work by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, Ken Kiff, Leon Kossoff, Euan Uglow, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. My work will be shown in large glass cabinets and will be a solo show. It runs from the second week in June until the 25th August.