At about twenty past six on the evening of 25th May 1917, a bomb was dropped from a German, Gotha, bomber which exploded in the midst of a queue of people waiting outside of Stokes’ greengrocers in Tontine Street, Folkestone. Scores of people were killed and injured. It’s a very sad story but I want people to know about it partly because it is such a sad story and partly because this story is similar to all those stories we hear all of the time about people caught up in bomb explosions. This story can stand for many, similar, stories.
Here are some images of a piece I made a few years ago. I continue to work on this project as time and money allow. My earliest exhibited work on this subject was shown as part of a solo show I had at Margate’s Marine Studios in 2011. It consisted of an entire wall covered with A5 pencil drawings and text about the people caught up in the various bomb explosions across Folkestone on that day. This led on to another piece called: “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…” (the title is a quote from an eye witness account referring to the sight of the German bombers high up in the evening sunlight). This is a framed work consisting of small silverpoint portraits and handwritten text on gesso boards. It has been exhibited in a number of places including: a gallery space on Margate pier (this was an off-shoot to the ‘Telling Stories: Hastings’, at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, curated by Cathryn Kemp); The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013 (shown at The Jerwood Art Space, London, and at various galleries across the country); East Kent Open Artists Open Houses (part of the Canterbury Festival); ‘Remembering: We Forget’ (The Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury) and ‘Memory’ (The Pie Factory, Margate). I’ve had a lot of interesting feedback from people who have seen the work at these exhibitions and I’ve also been contacted be a couple of people who have family stories connected with the event. I dearly hope to include these stories in future work. I hope I’ve made a respectful work of art.
I have a lot to say about this work and I’ve written more about it on previous blog posts (click on ‘Folkestone’ on the list of ‘categories’ to find earlier posts).
Click on the images for a better view of them.
This drawing was selected for the 2006 Jerwood Drawing Prize. The image you can see here is a scan taken from a photograph I took of it when it was on show at the Jerwood Art Space in London. The drawing is behind glass and so it’s not a sharp image but it will do. It’s a small drawing of about five by six centimetres or possibly even a smaller (the dimensions stated in the exhibition catalogue describe the size of the frame rather than the artwork and the reproduction in the catalogue is a lot bigger than the real thing). It’s a drawing of my dad. The title of the drawing (‘A N Eastland’) comes from my copy of his signature (his mark). It could also be read literally as ‘an Eastland’.
The drawing was built up through a process of repeated re-drawing. The face you see in this drawing is only the last version of many drawings of a number of different photo booth images that were drawn over each other. The face was drawn, painted over, sanded down, and then another face was drawn over the traces and then the process was repeated over and over.
This drawing strategy (of repeated obscuration and re-drawing) is employed for a variety of reasons. It brings in an element of unpredictability into the process (the drawing ‘returns’ to me as a slightly unfamiliar thing each time it is re-drawn). The process mimics processes we might associate with the passing of time (of archaeological traces for example) and of memory. It might also bring to mind the way we see the same things differently at different times. There is never really an end-point to any of my drawings: work on them simply stops once they are framed and presented as works of art (I sometimes need the deadline of an exhibition to force me to bring a drawing to a conclusion).
My drawings are often individual works which can stand alone as distinct works of art. This way of working has been forced on me by the fact that I lack the financial means to be able to work on more than a few pieces at a time. I’m not complaining; necessity is often the cause of virtue, and these separate, individual, drawings relate to all my other drawings (through their recurring focus on themes relating to memory, trace and presence) and I like the idea of making small, intimate, works of art.
[Click on ‘Jerwood Drawing Prize’ on the list of ‘categories’ for other drawings that were selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2009 and 2013.]
My drawing has received a nice mention in Zoe Pilger’s, Independent newspaper, review of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013 (this has made my day!). Here’s a link to her article: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/jerwood-drawing-prize-2013-the-winning-picture-by-svetlana-fialova-is-a-canny-but-misguided-choice-8812716.html
Here is part of the exhibition revue (click on the link to find the whole article):
“…Overall, the exhibition is elegant and balanced, but quite conservative. The boundaries of the medium are pushed – but not too much. The huge impact of technology on drawing is neither shunned nor overhyped
There are 76 shortlisted works on display out of a total of 3,082 entries. Some are fantastic. Roy Eastland’s They looked like silver birds… (2012) is a stunning montage of those killed in the 1917 German air-raid on Folkestone. Portraits in silverpoint are accompanied by moving biographical detail. Isobel Wilson, 80, for example, “was in the queue for potatoes when the bomb exploded.” Eastland makes you search for clues so that the narrative is unfolded through the act of looking.
Bitch (2013) by Catherine Linton is another exceptional work. A recorded voice whispers an elliptical poem about dogs (“…at your feet I lay…”), while a faint pencil animation plays on a screen of yellow notepaper on the back wall of a tiny wooden cage. You have to look through the bars to see: a young woman wearing a muzzle, running. The feminist allusions are powerful and delicate at once.
Can cutting open an envelope with a scalpel be classified as drawing? Apparently so. Important, Act Now (2013) by Lindsay Connors is an envelope from the Inland Revenue on which those ominous words are printed. This is conceptualism at its best: succinct and funny without being cynical. Any of these three artists would have been deserving winners.”
I urge you all to go and see this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize! This isn’t just because I have my work in it but because I think it’s a particularly good exhibition this year.
The drawing I have in the Jerwood Drawing Prize is composed of silverpoint portrait drawings and hand-written text drawing called: “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…”. I’ve written about this work previously in this blog and so just scroll down this ‘home page’ to find those earlier posts. I’ve also put a couple of videos of it on youtube …and also on my facebook page: ‘Roy Eastland’.
I’ve just found out that my drawing, “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…”, has been chosen for inclusion in this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition.
I’m thrilled to bits!
The Millennium Gallery St Ives will be showing some of my ‘Dancing/Dying Toy Soldier’ drawings at the London Art Fair this year. The London Art Fair 2012 is held at the Business Design Centre, Islington London between the 18th and 22nd of January (see: www.londonartfair.co.uk for details). A brief description of these drawings can be found on the previous blog post and on the ‘Dancing/Dying Toy Soldier’ page. These drawings were previously included in The Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition.
I’m thrilled to have some of my ‘Dancing/Dying Toy Soldier’ drawings on show at the Millennium Gallery in St Ives Cornwall. ‘THE MILLENNIUM MIXED WINTER EXHIBITION’ is on until 14th January 2012. You can watch a video tour of the show if you go to the gallery website at: www.millenniumgallery.co.uk . I have four, small (roughly 4.5 cm x 6 cm), silverpoint drawings included in the exhibition. They are part of an ongoing series of related drawings which take massed-produced plastic model soldiers as their repeated point of focus (specifically the ones depicting dying soldiers).
These little toys depict an imagined final moment of life (on the cusp of standing and falling or of consciousness and unconsciousness), but they might also be seen as depictions of people lost within a moment of ecstatic dancing. Through repeatedly redrawing these serious and dramatic little toys, something bigger and unpredicted comes into play. Each drawing is worked on over long periods of time. The evidence of earlier drawing is partially sanded away before the drawing process begins again. Each new attempt to draw the thing leaves its trace in the next and so the drawings build through partially controlled process of loss and re-emergence.
Etching needles and scalpel blades are also employed as drawing tools. The gesso surface is incised with needle-narrow lines which might follow or predict the silverpoint lines or interrupt and cut across them. These figures are re-imagined through drawing but the presence of the original object is always the constant and primary point of reference. These toys become something more significant through the attention paid to them through drawing them.
Silverpoint drawings are made by drawing a piece of silver wire across a prepared surface. The silver reacts with the gesso leaving a silvery mid-tone grey trace of a line. These lines slowly become more of a brown colour over time (if I was to make a silverpoint drawing each day and place them all side by side, you would see the beautifully subtle change in colour between the first and the last drawing). Silverpoint lines are never very dark. They cannot be rubbed out, but the brittle chalky gesso surface can be scratched-into and sanded between each new period of drawing.
Go to: www.millenniumgallery.co.uk/winter11/winter11.htm to see a video tour of the show.
This drawing (along with another, related, drawing) was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize, in 2009, and was also included in my solo exhibition at Marine Studios in Margate.