This drawing was recently on show in the ING Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary exhibition. The medium is silver on gesso on board (metalpoint/silverpoint). It’s one of an occasional on-going series of drawings based on photo booth images.
Photo booth images capture little moments of time which only the automatically timed camera shots ever witnessed; the sitter is usually alone, waiting for that moment to become a fixed image. The older types of photo booths gave the sitter four chances, four moments, to make a portrait good enough (or not too awful) to be used for, say, a bus pass or a membership card. Sometimes the moments were mistimed. The mistimed images would be unflattering but, perhaps, more interesting than the properly posed ones. This drawing is based an unused photo booth image of my mum.
The drawing is based on a photograph but it isn’t simply a copy of it. It has been repeatedly redrawn, sanded-away and scratched-into again and again. The image emerges out of this process of loss and finding. Below the drawing of the face is a block of hand-written text. The text is made up of multiple re-writings of lines of remembered speech and familiar stories. Each time the stories are re-written they are different and each re-writing both obscures and reinforces parts of earlier versions. Some repeated words are visibly more present and some fragments of sentences can be glimpsed but the there is never a single version which can be followed through to its end – just fragments and hints of what was present.
The hand-writing is a kind of drawing. Lines of words written on top or beside drawings can flatten pictorial depth but the over-laying of lines of words can evoke a sense of spatial depth – they can conjure a sense of rhythm and of movement. The closer the viewer looks the more the work disintegrates into scratches and lines and traces of movement. Drawings – hand-made drawings – are traces of presence and movement and time (life).
None of these drawings can ever really be said to be finished; there is no end-point with these works – they are simply left as they are to be whatever they are. I sometimes rework old drawings but this one is safe from that fate as someone else owns it.
This was one of four drawings recently on show at The Mall Galleries, in London, as part of the ING Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary exhibition. The other artists were: Alexandra Blum, Susannah Douglas, Craig Jefferson, Max Naylor, Daksha Patel and Eithne Twomey.
I’ve had my work selected for the 2017 ING Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary and I’m very pleased about it.
I’m thrilled to be in the running for the bursary and I’m also very much looking forward to having people see my work in the flesh. Photographs and scans give an impression of what they look like but they can’t convey the subtleties of the combination of the metallic traces and the scratches on the gesso surfaces. You really need to see the drawings for real and from various distances and to be able to look at them from the side as well as from face-on. It feels good to know that they are going to be looked at.
The ING Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary exhibition will be at The Mall Galleries, London, from mid-November, alongside the larger ING Discerning Eye exhibition (my drawing, ‘Margate Imperialists, 1930s’, has been selected for that as well). The winner of the bursary will be announced at the private view on 16th November. I’m not sure how many artists are selected for the Drawing Bursary exhibition but I think it’s around half a dozen or so. It’ll be a contemporary drawing exhibition in its own right and it’s going to feel good to be part of it. Of course I hope I win the bursary money (it would make a huge difference to what I am able to achieve with my art if I were to get it) but I can’t let myself to think about that too much (fingers crossed though!).
This particular drawing (‘Photo booth portrait drawing 1’) is one of the silverpoint drawings that will be on show. It’s one of a series of silverpoint drawings based on photo booth images. These drawings are drawings of moments when a person sat alone and still for a moment and waited for the sequence of four automatically timed flash photographs to be played out. It happens to be of my mum but the same would be the case for anyone and I’d love to find some photo booth images of people I’ve never known to draw from.
The slightly mistimed ones are more interesting than the ones which were the least bad ones (they never look good do they) that become images for bus passes and such like. For some reason or other an intact sequence of three from a strip of four survive and this drawing is based on one of them.
The drawings also contain a block of repeated, hand-written, lines of text. The text is made up of remembered speech and familiar stories. The lines of words are drawn over each other and become difficult to make sense of but some repeated phrases and words come through so that the stories come to the surface as fragments of events and memories.
The block of text is also a kind of drawing in itself. The lines of words are perhaps suggestive of waves and they conjure a kind of pictorial depth but they also flatten pictorial space at too. I hope people will look closely at both the image of the face and at the words; perhaps the after-image of each will play on the other and create a sense of subtle movement (life?).
I like the idea of making art which incorporates traces of multiple moments of time in one place. But it’s really up to the viewer to see whatever they see and even though I might be conscious of putting a lot of ideas into my drawings I really don’t mind if others ‘get it’ or not: all I can do is to offer these works as objects to spend time with and to notice what comes to mind while in their company.
Anyway, if you are in London in the second half on November, have a look at the exhibition and see what you think.
The Discerning Eye Exhibition runs from the 16th until the 26th November.
Margate Creatives, 2010s (silverpoint on gesso on board, 20.7cm x 14.2cm) is one of an ongoing series of small silverpoint drawings of people in costume, or in uniform, with a connection to the English seaside town of Margate.
How people chose to dress, or what they are required to wear for their jobs, say a lot about a particular place at a particular time.
For example, small photograph of a smiling man, dressed in Battledress and walking down Cliftonville’s Northdown Road on a sunny day in 1940, says something about Margate during a time of war; and yet it is also just a picture of a smiling man seen on a sunny day (this image may become the basis of a future drawing) .
In my drawing, Margate Imperialists, 1930s (see earlier posts), we see men dressed as women, someone dressed as a working class ‘Margate Landlady’, a black-faced minstrel and a member of the Klu Klux Klan. All of these people are assembled around a young woman dressed as Britannia. Perhaps it was Empire Day.
In 2010s Margate we see two women at a Margate-themed party: one dressed as a local businessman and the other dressed as an estate agent’s ‘SOLD’ sign. Margate is presently experiencing the mixed blessings of ‘cultural regeneration’.
If I could make money from the amount of time and I spend (waste?) working on things that never get to be finished works of art I would be a very, very, rich man.
I tell myself that all the effort will bare fruit in the fullness of time and that all the time and effort is an investment in works of art yet to come. Somehow or other, in spite of my doubts, I seem to keep the faith and keep on working away at my ideas and drawings. I couldn’t tell you why.
I’ve dug these silverpoint drawings out of their drawer to look at them and see if looking at them will suggests a possible next move. I’m showing them here because otherwise they might never be seen or become finished works of art. These are not finished drawings but they each have their moments: subtle things that suggests possible next moves.
I don’t know. These drawing are resting.
Margate Imperialists 1930s, 2017, silver on gesso on board, 21cm x 30cm.
Work on this drawing has come to an end. I could carry on working on it but I shan’t.
The drawing is based on a small photographic image on a postcard taken somewhere in Margate in the 1930s. My guess is that the people here were dressed for an Empire Day event. This is one of a number of drawings based on the same image. It is one of a series of drawings based on images of people dressed in costumes of some sort and with a Margate connection.
“They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…” is my 2011-2012 drawing about the people who were killed by a bomb which exploded in Tontine Street, Folkestone, during the air raid of 25th May 1917. This work was recently on display in Folkestone at a memorial event for the one hundredth anniversary of the air raid.
The 25th May 2017 was the first time it had been on show in Folkestone (this meant a lot to me and it nearly didn’t happen). Previously it had been included in the 2013 Jerwood Drawing Prize and was exhibited in various galleries around the country in 2013 and 2014 including galleries in London (Jerwood Space), Newcastle (Hatton Gallery), Plymouth (Plymouth Art College / Plymouth Arts Centre) and Canterbury (Sidney Cooper Gallery). It has also been seen in exhibitions in my home town, Margate, and once again at the Sidney Cooper Gallery as part of an exhibition focusing on art and poetry about The First World War called ‘Remembering: we forget’.
Up until now this work has be seen in art galleries. The typical ‘white cube’ style art gallery space allows the viewer to see the work in ideal conditions without other visual distractions. It’s easier to notice the subtleties in a work of art when there is only the work of art in your line of sight.
On Thursday 25th May 2017 it was displayed in The Folkestone Methodist Church, in Sandgate Road, propped up by a couple of cushions on a table by the entrance in a narrow space between the backs of chairs and the wall beneath a bright fabric mural. The light reflecting on it from a high, long, window made it hard to see. If this had been an art gallery setting I wouldn’t have been happy, but on this particular day and in this particular place the important thing about its presentation was that it was sitting there in Folkestone and it was being looked at by people in Folkestone (some of whom were relatives of people in my drawing).
The event was organised by Margaret Care, a descendant of one of the people who died as a result of the Tontine Street bomb, and Martin Easdown, a local historian who has done research into and has written about the air raid and who’s book, A Glint in the Sky, was a key source of information about the air raid in the early stages of my work.
The day included an exhibition, a memorial service, an unveiling of a new memorial plaque and a walking tour. It was a labour of love for them. Margaret’s family have been placing flowers to remember the victims every year since 1918. Until now the only memorial to the people who were killed in the air raid has been a modest plaque at the site of the Tontine Street explosion, next to the Brewery Tap pub (which is now a art venue for the UCA within Folkestone’s Creative Quarter).
The people who came were a mix of relatives of people who had been killed in the air raid, curious local people, local historians, people from local media, people working on Radio Four’s, ‘Home Front’ drama series (which is set in Folkestone during the First World War) and local dignitaries. There was a constant supply of cups of tea (which is always a good thing) and I had conversations with relatives of people who had died in the air raid and I met people I had previously only corresponded with via emails, and I’m sure I missed out on conversations too.
“They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…” is part of an ongoing body of work connected with the 1917 air raid. People who’s relatives were caught up in the air raid had contacted me, after seeing my work in exhibitions or via the internet, and they have shared their family-stories, and their fragments of stories and little, human, details which I might one day put into future work. I have information now which I didn’t have at the time of working on this drawing; part of me feels a pull towards making new work, while another part of me wants to leave it alone now (it can be hard to focus on such a sad thing for long periods of time).
Time will tell if I work on this further but I have a feeling that this isn’t the end of the story.
And another thing: those of you who listen to BBC Radio Four might be aware of the drama series ‘Home Front’. The series is set in Folkestone during the First World War and you might find the 25th May Afternoon Play, ‘A Lightening’, interesting (you can find it on BBC Radio Four iPlayer). This Thursday 8th May, the editor of the series, Jessica Dromgoole, will be giving a talk about the series at the beautiful, and very, very old, St Mary’s and St Eanswythe’s Church in Folkestone. Go to it after you’ve voted.
…and please do vote!
A memorial event for victims of The Great Folkestone Air Raid of 25th May 1917 will take place in Folkestone next week.
My drawing, “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them… ”, will be on display as part of this event which will also include a small exhibition, a memorial service, an unveiling of a memorial plaque and a walking tour. The event has been organised by local historian, Martin Easdown, and a descendant of one of the victims, Margaret Care. This has been a labour of love for both of them. I’m looking forward to having my work seen in Folkestone at last (it has been shown in various galleries all over the country but never in Folkestone until now).
My drawing will be on show at The Folkestone Methodist Church on Sandgate Road (CT20 2DA) from 2pm until 5pm. I’ll be there and so please come along and say hello if you can make it over to Folkestone. Martin has written a book about the air raid which will be on sale there too.
If you’re someone who listens to BBC Radio 4 while you work (or whatever you do during the day) you might want to listen to the Afternoon Play that day. ‘Home Front: A lightening’ will be broadcast at 2.15pm (and also on BBC iPlayer Radio) and is all about the 25th May 1917 air raid.
For more information about the memorial event go to: http://www.leshaigh.co.uk/folkestone/tontinememorialservice.html
For more information about my art work go to my previous posts on this blog (click on ‘Folkestone’ on the list of categories) or/and go to my other social media places listed here below:
Hopefully see some of you in Folkestone next week!
ps, There happens to be an excellent, and long established, secondhand bookshop (Marrin’s Bookshop) right next door to the Sandgate Road Methodist Church – it’s well worth a look around there as well!