This is a silverpoint drawing based on a photographic image of a woman from Myslowice in 1944. I don’t know her name or anything about her. But I know that the picture was taken in 1944 and that Myslowice is in Silesia, in Poland, and that Silesia became part of an expanded Germany during The Second World War, and that it had a sizable ethnically German population before the war, and that the German population was expelled at the end of the war.
Her photograph found its way into my hands via a second-hand shop in Margate. My drawing is one of a series of silverpoint drawings, titled ‘Displaced Portraits’, which I showed as part of my solo exhibition for the Margate Now art festival. These ‘Displaced Portraits’ are of people who were photographed, mostly in Germany, in the 1930s and 1940s and whose images I found, at different times, in the same second-hand shop. I wonder how we are connected? I wonder if my drawing gets close to her?
Here is a drawing, done in silver, of someone who was photographed somewhere in the Germany in 1943. From the hand-written text on the back of the photograph we can glean that she was probably called Trudi and that her picture was probably taken in February 1943. As she is a teenager here, it’s just about possible that she is still alive somewhere now. If so, she will most likely be in her late nineties. As far as I know, our paths have never crossed. But who knows?
A photograph is a trace of the visual appearance as it was within a single point in time; drawings take time: they take time to make and take time to see. They are never the traces of a single moment or even of a single image. Our vision of whatever we are drawing changes as we draw and so even a drawing based on a single, still, image is really multiple drawings and multiple visions seen over a period of time. As we draw, we become aware of ourselves noticing what it is we notice. We also become aware of how our body feels as we draw. Drawings, then, are the traces of a kind of meditation on the presence of things.
In drawing these ‘Displaced Portraits’ I was trying to get to know the particular ‘look’ of each person. Of course, it’s impossible to really know if I’ve got anywhere close to something that they would recognise as themselves, but I hope I’ve got something of their humanity in my drawings.
It’s hard to explain why I draw these people. I sort of know why I do it but I doubt if I could explain it. Do I need to explain?
“Displaced Portrait no13 (Trudi, Feb 1943)” was shown as part of my ‘Margate Now’, art festival, solo exhibtion.
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.
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.
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.
My ‘Margate Now’ festival exhibition is installed at Gordon House in Margate. It consists of thirty-three small, mostly silverpoint, drawings.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.