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 taken down my ‘Margate NOW 2019’ solo show at Gordon House. It was called “Displaced Portraits” and it consisted of thirty-three drawing, most of which were silverpoint drawings. 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 .People were really spending time to look at the drawings and to think about them. 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.
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.
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.
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’.
Drawing is never easy but working on this particular drawing has been especially hard. It’s a drawing of Thomas Sidney Cooper RA (1803-1902). It took forty-five days of actual drawing. And previous to that there were two other attempts and lots of research before that. I’m not complaining; I think it’s a privilege to able to spend time making art. This drawing was hard work and so it should to be.
Cooper was born in the house which now forms the front gallery and offices of the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury. He was born into a poor family and had little education or encouragement. But he became a very successful and very rich artist and went on to set up what is now The Sidney Cooper Gallery. My drawing is a commissioned work for Canterbury Christ Church University to commemorate the gallery’s 150th year. Its first public showing will be as an object within an installation piece called ‘Sidney Cooper’s Living Room’ by Sound Artist Emily Peasgood. This installation might also include recordings of yours truly talking about the gallery, studios and drawing. Once the exhibition is over it will become part of the university’s permanent collection of artworks.
The piece is a silverpoint drawing containing a portrait drawing and hand-written text. The face is drawn from a mixture of images but it most closely resembles a photographic image from about the time his art school was built. Cooper bought his mum’s old house, and the land around it, and had the art college and gallery built but kept his childhood home intact so that the grand classical-style entrance to the gallery stands next to the house in St Peter’s Street. He gave it all to the town to be used as a place for art education. My portrait of Cooper will be hung in what was probably his mum’s front room. If Cooper’s ghost was to haunt the place I hope it would see something of himself in my drawing.
The hand-written ‘text’ is made up of lines transcribed from the first chapter of his autobiography. It recalls the poverty of his childhood years, various anecdotes and his repeated references to his sense of an absence of a father he never knew and who deserted the family when he was too young to have formed any visual memory of him.
He writes that his mother was ‘overwhelmed’ by the effort to care for her family. He also recalls his habit of walking in the countryside, alone, and how he would often feel a sense of ‘depression’ in the presence of natural beauty. On one occasion he thought he heard a voice calling “On, on; come on” but he looked about and could see no one. This moment was to stay in his mind and seems to have become a kind of personal motto for him throughout the rest of his life.
Both the image and the text have been repeatedly re-drawn and scratched-away so the that the drawing has changed in each re-working. Fragments of earlier versions are present alongside subsequent iterations. I hope the viewers are drawn into the piece and spend some time with it. The text began as a much larger block of writing but each subsequent re-telling became shorter and the text more condensed. All of the words are Cooper’s own words. I want the drawing to create the feeling of a person being present with his memories.
I love that this man gave this wonderful art school building to the town. I love that the building has preserved his childhood home. All of the drawings, artworks, exhibitions and all the chance meetings and good things which have ever taken place at the Sidney Cooper Gallery and studios are down to this man taking the trouble to have this place built and to have given it to the town. I think there is a lot to like about Thomas Sidney Cooper. I hope he would have liked my drawing of him.