Woman from Myslowice, 1944.

“Displaced Portrait no7 (woman from Myslowice/Myslowitz, 1944)” silverpoint.

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?

Displaced Portrait no13 (Trudi, Feb 1943)

“Displaced Portrait no13 (Trudi, Feb 1943)” 2019, silver on gesso on board, 21×14.5cm

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.

“They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…”

“They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…” is a piece from 2012 about the people who were killed by a bomb which exploded amid a shopping queue in Tontine Street, Folkestone, during the air raid of 25th May 1917. I became obsessed with this subject and worked on it, off and on, from about 2010. This particular piece was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize (now the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize) and has been exhibited at various galleries on various occasions. It finally made its way to Folkestone for a one-off event on the occasion of the centenary of the raid and the inauguration of a new memorial plaque. It would be lovely if it could eventually find its way back to Folkestone one day. It’s most recent showing was as part of my Margate Now, art festival, solo show in October.

As a result of showing this piece, I have been contacted by relatives of people who were caught up in the 25th May 1917 air raid and I now have more visual reference material and more stories to add. If I had the money to do so I would work on this subject more. I feel that I’ll return to this in the future. It has been a, very sad, labour of love.

I’ve written a lot more about this in previous posts. Please click on the ‘Folkestone’ category of this blog or scroll back to find my previous posts.

6 Feb 1943

“Displaced Portrait No11 (young woman from Duren, 6 Feb 1943)”, 2019, silver on gesso on board, 21×14.5cm.

This is number eleven of a series of small silverpoint drawings of people who had their pictures taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. These photographs found their way into my hands via a second-hand shop in Cliftonville, Margate (UK). I exhibited them as part of my ‘Margate Now’ (art festival) solo show in October.

Number three of this series for included in the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2018. Please scroll back through my blog to find more about this body of work.

‘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.

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.

Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize at the Royal Drawing School

Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibition at the Royal Drawing School, Shoreditch, London.

Here are a few pictures of the private view at the Royal Drawing School of the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibition. The exhibition has been at its present venue since the start of February but the private view was just last week. I’m glad I went to the private view and it was great to meet artists whose work I admire and who I’d only ever ‘met’ through the medium of say twitter or Instagram until now.

My piece in this show is a small silverpoint drawing which is one of an ongoing series of drawings called: ‘Displaced Portraits’. The drawings are of people seen in photographs taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and found in a Margate second hand shop at different times. ‘Displaced Portrait no:3 (woman in carefully repaired image)’ is drawn from a photograph which had been torn in two and then so carefully repaired that you can’t see the damage at first glance.

The drawing is based on the photograph but it isn’t a straight forward copy. The piece has been repeatedly drawn, scratched-away and redrawn. These drawings are worked on over long periods of time and the process, of loss and re-finding, is unpredictable. The recurring focus is always the person I am trying to draw out of their snapshot image. There is no way of ever really knowing if I’m getting close but I hope the people I am trying to draw would see themselves in my drawings.

Drawing is always a medium trace. At it’s most fundamental level, a drawing is a surface with a mark on it indicating the passing presence of an though; it always says ‘someone was here’. The drawings are of people displaced from their place and moment. An image of their moment has found its way into my hands here in Margate in the early 21st century. Everything which lasts eventually becomes displaced.

Metalpoint drawings emphasise the quality of trace in the most beautiful way. A silverpoint line is the mark left when the metal is dragged across a prepared surface (imagine a key being dragged across an emulsion-painted wall and you get the rough idea). The mark is extremely subtle but it is also indelible. Silverpoint lines are extremely gentle mark; the line is not made any more emphatic by pressing harder and you are forced to work with the medium with its unique limitations and qualities. Drawing with metalpoint is an appropriate medium for my interest in making Art about memory and presence.

The exhibition continues at the Royal Drawing School until 21st February and then moves on to Drawing Projects in Trowbridge, near Salisbury.

See my post from 23rd August 2018 for a full view of my drawing.

Drawing included in a new book about silverpoint drawing

Silverpoint and Metalpoint Drawing: A Complete Guide to the Medium

One of my drawings is featured in a new book about metalpoint drawing titled: “SILVERPOINT AND METALPOINT DRAWING: A Complete Guide to the Medium” by Susan Schwalb and Tom Mazzullo (published by Routledge, IBSN 978-0-8153-6590). It’s just the one drawing, and there is just a brief mention of it, but it makes me happy to have it included in this excellent book. This book is the first complete guide to the medium and includes a history of the medium, chapters on materials and techniques and a section discussing examples of contemporary artists’ use of the metalpoint.

My drawing is one of a sequence of three based on a strip of found photo booth images of my mum. Photo booth portrait drawing 2, 2014-2016, silverpoint on gesso on board (21cm x 14.5cm) is one of an ongoing series of drawings which focus on otherwise unnoticed moments of life. These happen to be of my mum but others use photographs found in junk shops in Margate.

The pieces are repeatedly drawn, scratched-away and redrawn as a way to bring something unexpected into play in the drawings. They aren’t straight forward copies of pre-existing images. Through the repeated process of loss and the re-finding of the image I hope to draw out something which feels more real to me than a simple copy of an image. Drawings take time and the traces of that presence of the passing of time is as much the subject of drawing as the image I feel.

Silverpoint drawings are very obviously the physical traces of moments of touch. All hand-made drawings express qualities of trace, presence and time, but I think metalpoint marks bring these aspects of drawing even more to the fore than other drawing media. The touch of the metal on the prepared surface leaves an extremely subtle but indelible mark. It’s gentleness is one of the reasons I’ve become so interested in silverpoint drawing. The medium sits well with my interest in making art about memory and human presence and of our curious awareness of distances of time.

Beneath the portrait is a block of hand-written text. This text is made up of lines of remembered speech and family stories. As with the portrait drawing above it, it is repeatedly re-written (re-drawn) and each reiteration is slightly altered from the previous version. Certain fragments of sentences and words become more visible through the repeated retelling but always the stories are fragmentary: like memories.

‘Photo booth portrait drawing 2’, 2014-2016, silverpoint on gesso on board (21cm x 14.5cm)

If you’re interested in seeing my drawings for real you can one of my ‘Displaced Portraits’  in the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibtion which is presently on show at the Royal Drawing School in London. Also, I have drawing on display at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, which is being used within Sound Artist Emily Peasgood’s art installation, ‘Sidney Cooper’s Living Room’, part of her solo show called ‘Living Sound’.