Article in The Jackdaw art magazine

silverpoint portrait drawing (detail) ROY EASTLAND contemporary drawing

I’ve had an article published in the ‘Easel Words’ section of the May/June edition of The Jackdaw magazine. The art critic, Laura Gascoigne, saw my work in the ‘Traces’ exhibition at Millennium and asked me to write something about my work for the Jackdaw art magazine. This is what I wrote:

 

Roy Eastland: I make drawings.

 I’ve been working on an ongoing series of small silverpoint drawings of heads. They were exhibited in a solo show at Millennium St Ives, Cornwall, at the end of 2014. The drawings are based on photo booth and bus pass images of my mum. Most of these photographs were never actually used for bus passes because they captured the unflattering mistimed moments between the automatically-timed camera flashes. They remind me of familiar facial expressions and moods. My drawings are based on these images but they are really about the presence of a person and about a few, otherwise unnoticed, moments of a life.

I’ve fallen in love with the archaic and labour-intensive medium of silverpoint. Silverpoint drawings are made by drawing a point of silver wire across a prepared surface. A silverpoint line is actually the trace of a chemical reaction caused by the touch of the metal point on the gesso-primed surface. The drawings are done on boards coated in layers of gesso made from rabbit skin glue, chalk and zinc white (the preparation of these boards takes a long time and is almost a craft in it self). The portraits are twice the size of the heads in original photo booth images (approximately 5cm x 5cm). The gesso surfaces are drawn on with the silverpoint and scratched into with etching needles, scalpel blades and sandpaper. The drawings gradually emerge through a repeated process of loss and remaking. The process mimics certain aspects of the way memories are formed over time and the way stories survive and are passed on. The final version of each drawing shows the traces of earlier, and different, versions of the same image. Each of the drawings contains a block of hand-written text (made up of lines of remembered speech and familiar stories). These sentences are repeatedly scratched away and rewritten and so become fragmented and hard to follow. Certain words, phrases and fragments of stories remain more strongly present in the drawings as a consequence of their repeated re-writing; even so, their presence is always fragile.

The delicacy of silverpoint makes it an appropriate medium for an art about presence, trace and memory. Silverpoint lines cannot be rubbed out but the surface on which they are drawn can be scratched away. When freshly made, silverpoint lines are a mid-tone grey but they slowly turn a warm grey-brown as they continue to oxidise over time. This slow, subtle and ongoing change is also suggestive of the presence of the passing of time. Silverpoint is a gentle medium: pressing the point harder will not make the line darker or its presence any stronger.

I make drawings. It’s what I’m most interested in and it’s what I do. Drawing, for me, is an affectionate act of paying careful attention to the presence of things. Whenever anyone asks me what kind of art I do I can never give a one line answer; the best I can come up with is that I draw.

 

You can find a video tour of ‘Traces’ (the exhibition referred to in the article) if you go to the Millennium website and navigate your way to the exhibition tour. http://www.millenniumgallery.co.uk/royeastland/royeastland.htm You can find more on my facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Roy-Eastland/1495390357351370?ref=hl

Here’s a link to the Jackdaw website (it’ll tell you there how you can get hold of a copy): http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/?page_id=13

 

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