This is one of my ‘Displaced Portrait’ drawings. I’ve been struggling with it for ages but now I think I might leave it alone.
The piece is part of an ongoing series of small silverpoint drawings based on images of people seen in old photographs which were taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. All the photographs were found in the same Margate junk shop but they were all found separately and at different times. There is no reason to suppose the people in the various images ever met each other, but then again you never know. And likewise there is no way of knowing how their images made their way to this secondhand shop. These are drawings of unknown people found in old photos and brought into our presence through the act of drawing.
This drawing is called ‘Displaced Portrait no:7 (woman from Myslowice/Myslowitz)’. The photograph is dated 1944 and was printed in Myslowice. Myslowice is in Silesia in Poland. Silesia had a sizeable German-speaking population and it became part of an expanded Germany during The Second World War. At the end of the war the ethnic Germans were expelled.
My drawings come about through a process of continual revision and redrawing. The drawing process becomes a meditative act of concentration and focus upon a single, unknown, and possibly forgotten, face. I hope to make these people seem present again in our own here and now, a time with our its own worries about the future of Europe. Everything will eventually become displaced in time.
Number three of this series of drawings will be shown in The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibtion in a few weeks. The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize is the new incarnation of what used to be The Jerwood Drawing Prize. I’m thrilled to taking part in this and I’m looking forward to seeing the other drawings and looking forward to hearing what people make of my work.
Another of the series of ‘Displaced Portraits’ – a series of small silverpoint drawings based on the images of people in photographs taken in Germany inn the 1930s and 1940s and which have found their way into my hands via a Margate junk shop.
There is a handwritten message on the back of the original photograph which says (in German): “My dear Feliz. To remember happy times with. Irina. 19th July 1942”
Another drawing from this series will be exhibited in the upcoming Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize which opens in September.
I also have a solo show running presently at The Young Gallery, in Salisbury, called ‘People Being Still Somewhere’.
My silverpoint drawing has been selected for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2018 and I’m very pleased about that!
The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize is the new incarnation of what was The Jerwood Drawing Prize. It’s the main, yearly, Contemporary Drawing exhibition and I see it as a kind annual survey of Contemporary Drawing practice in the UK. It is always worth seeing.
My drawing which has been selected is one of a growing body of work which ‘resurrects’ unknown people (unknown to me at least) from found photographs which were taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. All of the original images were found in a junk shop in Margate. I came across them all at different times and most of them seem to have been taken in different German towns.
‘Displaced Portrait no: 3 (young woman in carefully repaired image)’ is based on a photograph which had been torn in two and then very carefully glued back together again. This woman now has a kind of afterlife as an art object. What can we tell about a person from the way they appear to us? The fact that the photograph was damaged and then carefully repaired is intriguing.
My drawings are based on photographs but they are not simply copies of them. Details have been altered, tones have been modified, and each has been repeated scratched-away and redrawn and worked on over long periods of time to get to something which feels real to me.
I’m not quite sure what it is I am attempting to do with these drawings. I sort of know but I can’t really say beyond that it has something to do with our experience of time and of human presence. I realise that’s a bit vague but it’s the best I can come up with for now (I might rewrite this post later). I like to think of my drawings as moments of connection between moments in time. Drawings take time. Hand-drawn lines are traces of presence and of time, and of a mind engaged in the act of looking and thinking. Perhaps in drawing these people I am drawing ghosts.
The selectors for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2018 are the artist Nigel Hall RA, the art dealer Megan Piper and Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Museum in Bath.
The exhibition will open in September in London and will tour various galleries across the country for the best part of a year. Look out for it later in the year.
I presently have a solo exhibtion at the Young Gallery, Salisbury, which runs alongside the 20th century British figurative artists exhibition, curated by Peter Riley from the Arts Council Collection.
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.