‘Empire Day’ selected by Kwarme Kwee-Armah for the Discerning Eye

“Empire Day” (silverpoint drawing)

I’ve had my silverpoint drawing, “Empire Day”, selected for the ING Discerning Eye 2019 exhibition by Kwarme Kwei-Armah. It’s one of a number of drawings based on a found photograph taken in Margate in the 1930s.

Here we see a young woman dressed as Britannia surrounded by people in fancy dress. There are men dressed as women, people playing the role of ‘funny foreigners’ and ‘funny working-class types’. There is a woman ‘blacked up’ to look like a golliwog, a man dressed as a working class ‘Margate Landlady’, a gypsy fortune teller and even a member of the Klu Klux Klan!

Here are happy-looking people expressing, disguising and revealing something about themselves and about their times through play-acting in fancy dress. Every cultural moment has it’s own prejudices and blind spots.

The Discerning Eye exhibtion, at The Mall Galleries, London, continues until 24th November.

The private view at the Mall Galleries for the ING Discerning Eye.

Post-exhibition blues

I’ve noticed that whenever I have exhibitions, I tend to experience a slump in mood soon after the exhibition is over. I’m not talking here of actual Depression. But it’s a definite low mood.

A view of my ‘Margate Now 2019’ exhibition at Gordon House.

I’ve just brought my ‘Margate NOW 2019’ solo show to an end. It was called “Displaced Portraits” and it consisted of thirty-three drawing, most of which were silverpoint drawings (see previous posts). The response to them was overwhelmingly positive. I really could not have asked for a more interesting and encouraging mix of comments from the people who saw the work. Best of all was the fact that people were really spending time to look at the drawings and to think about them. But despite all the positive feedback and conversations I’m left feeling stuck in the doldrums. It’s going to take me a while to process the whole experience.

Here are some images from the show. I’ll try and find the time to write about the work sometime soon. For now, you might like to pop over to my YouTube channel to see some short videos of the exhibition and also my Instagram account.

‘Displaced Portraits’

Thank you, Eddie and Lucy for allowing me to have my exhibition in your place!

The Margate Now 2019 art festival continues through to January and runs alongside Turner Contemporary’s showing of this year’s Turner Prize.

‘Margate Now 2019’ exhibition – “Displaced Portraits”

My ‘Margate Now’ festival exhibition is installed at Gordon House in Margate. It consists of thirty-three small, mostly silverpoint, drawings.

‘Displaced Portrait no11 (young woman from Duren, 6 Feb 1943)’, silverpoint drawing.

“Displaced Portraits” is a series of metalpoint drawings based on images of people photographed in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The photographs have found their way from the Ruhr, in the 1940s, into my hands via a second hand shop in Margate. The original images capture the momentary look of people being still: my drawings are a kind of meditation on those traces of moments in people’s lives and our connections with one and other.

‘Displaced Portraits’

The exhibition continues and is open on Thursday 24th, Friday 25th, Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October. The opening times are: 12:30 – 4pm and 11am to 5pm on Saturday. I shall be there throughout and will be very happy to discuss my work and ideas.

Gordon House’s gallery space is a basement gallery and so there are some steps down to it (see my YouTube videos). It is venue no29 in the festival and the address is: Gordon House, Churchfield Place, CT9 1PJ. The Margate Now art festival runs alongside Turner Contemporary’s Turner Prize exhibition.

Demonstration drawings

 

Demonstration drawing from a Life Drawing workshop.

I teach Life Drawing to people with a wide range of experience and ambitions. It’s quite normal for me to be teaching groups which include practicing artists, with degrees and MAs etc, alongside people who describe themselves as ‘beginners’ (I don’t believe there is even such a thing as a ‘beginner’ when it comes to drawing!). It’s an interesting challenge to design classes and courses that are useful to everyone. Demonstration drawings can be useful.

Here is a demonstration drawing done over the course of about thirty minutes. It’s probably a ten-minute drawing if you take into account all of the stops to discuss ideas at various moments as the drawing took shape. I might do one of these as part of a day-long session and I’ll also do one at some point during a six-week or ten-week course. This A1 charcoal drawing happens to be from a session I taught at The Young Gallery in Salisbury.

The point of these demonstrations is to offer a range of ways of thinking about Drawing and to show a drawing-process, involving constant revision, being played-out over time.  These demonstrations are as much about ideas as about techniques, if not more so.

Mistakes are an essential part of the process. We change our minds as we draw and our drawings are the traces of all those moments when these changes took place. I like to think of the drawing surface as a kind of map or a game board on which all the little dramas of decisions and indecisions, moves and momentary presence had their moments and left their trace.

We make drawings within a sequence of moments but we view the ‘finished’ drawing (are drawings ever really ‘finished’?) as if from various points in time and all at once. Our drawings are traces of time and of our physical and pscycological presence just as much as they are marks made to resemble visual appearances of things.

It’s impossible to draw at the same time as describing the thought processes that bring the drawing into being; even so, that is what I attempt to do in these drawings. The main effort is to make the mark connect with, or resemble, the thought. For example: the angle of the line between two points of the figure might be the only thought at that particular moment in time, the idea of a circuit created by the loop of the arms might be another, the shape of shadows imply the presence of the form which casts them, variations in the weight of lines might indicate that something is nearer than something else… and so on, and so on. Each moment in the drawing is concerned only with that moment’s effort. You must have faith in the drawing as a process that brings these separate ideas into some kind of ‘agreement’ as the drawing emerges.

And there is the basic, almost child-like, pleasure in drawing a line – the physical sensation of it and the surprise in seeing the result of it. This is not the least important aspect of drawing. The really good lines come from the attempt to be precise whilst being also open to the possibility of their being another way of seeing it and of making our mark.

If you’d like to come to my Life Drawing classes then please keep an eye out for them on my social media posts (facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roy.eastlanddrawing, Twitter: https://www.instagram.com/royeastland/ and Instagram: https://twitter.com/royeastlanddraw or go to the Kent Adult Education website and type my name into the search box).

This particular drawing, along with several others from the workshops I’ve taught there, are in the collection of The Young Gallery in Salisbury.

Displaced Portaits to be in the ‘Margate NOW’ art festival

I’m going to be taking part in the ‘Margate NOW’ art festival in October.

My solo show, ‘Displaced Portraits’, will be on display at Gordon House in Margate on: 18th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th of October.

The exhibition will consist of a series of small silverpoint drawings of people seen in photographs taken in 1930s/1940s Germany and found in a Margate junkshop, drawings based on photo booth images of my mum and dad, and images of people disguised in costume. All the drawings have a Margate connection.

Here is number 10 of this series. The original photograph captured the presence this person being still for a moment somewhere – my drawings are a kind of meditation on this displaced trace of that tiny moment in her life. Somehow it found its way into my hands via a junk shop in Cliftonville, Margate. I wonder in what ways our lives are connected with each other’s.

This drawing has been repeatedly re-worked. It’s come and gone and come and gone umpteen times over. It died for a while (see my previous post). I’m going to leave it as it is now.

I’ll say more about this work as it takes shape.

Losing Faith

All that remains of days and weeks of work – a ghost of a drawing.

I lose faith in my drawings and they die. Would it be more accurate to say that I kill them or is it that they never quite manage to come alive? It’s probably a hopeless task to try and make drawings that ‘live’ but that is always what I hope for.

And so, I suppose, most of my drawings are failures. Each one is a different kind of failure. It is never the same but it is always heart breaking to spend so much time and effort and to have so little to show for it. Some people might say they all of these failed drawings were ‘finished’ several times over. Not for me they weren’t.

Here is a silverpoint drawing I’ve been working on for about eleven days over the course of about three weeks. I often work on drawings for much longer than that. This was/is number eleven of my series of ‘Displaced Portraits’. These are drawings based on people in photographs which I’ve found at different times in the same Margate secondhand shop. The photographs were taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Number three of this series was selected for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. See my previous posts for more about this series of drawings.

 

An earlier incarnation of the same drawing

 

Displaced Portraits

I’ve been working on a series of small silverpoint drawings called ‘Displaced Portraits’. The drawings are of people who were photographed in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. All of the photographs share the fact that they were all found at different times in the same Margate second hand shop.

‘Displaced Portrait No:4 (man from Kiel)’, silverpoint, 21×14.5cm

The drawings are worked on over the course of months. They are never straight forward copies of photographs. Each piece is repeatedly scratched-away and then redrawn. This process of loss and re-finding  takes place over and over again. In each reworking something new comes into play. The process brings about moments of unpredictability.

I don’t quite know what it is that I’m trying to create or trying to see in these drawings. I know that I’m trying the understand these people’s faces but it’s not only that. I’m hoping to be surprised by what comes to the surface as I work on them. I can’t explain it but it is something which can only come through the act of repeated re-drawing and endless re-looking and re-imaging. The original photographs are the traces of tiny moments in time; my drawings are a kind of repeated meditation on those traces.

‘Displaced Portrait No:4 (man from Kiel)’ is based on a small photograph which has Kiel stamped on the reverse side. I know nothing more about this man. The focus of the drawing is the face. It’s a drawing which could have been finished several times over. I did believe it was finished months ago and I had put it away in a drawer in my studio and there it sat until I decided to work on it again. Now it is finished. Perhaps I should say that it is finished for now.