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 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.

‘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.

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.

Losing Faith

All that remains of days and weeks of work – a ghost of a drawing.

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.

 

An earlier incarnation of the same drawing

 

Displaced Portraits

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.

‘Displaced Portrait No:4 (man from Kiel)’, silverpoint, 21×14.5cm

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.

 

 

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’.

 

Difficult drawing.

Silverpoint drawing work in progress.

Here’s an image of a drawing I’ve been working on for about thirty-four days. It’s for a commission for the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, and it will become part of Canterbury Christ Church University’s permanent collection. I want it to be good.

The drawing is based on a number of not-very-clear images of Thomas Sidney Cooper, the 19th century painter. Cooper set up, what is now, The Sidney Cooper Gallery a hundred and fifty years ago. I’m using various images of the man as a way to get closer to ‘seeing’ his face. It’s hard to imagine his ‘look’ and so my portrait of him keeps changing. I get a feeling that I’m getting closer but how can I really know?

The drawing also contains hand-written text. These lines of writing are transcriptions from his autobiography. Certain themes are emerging through my repeated re-writing of his words. The amount of text is gradually reducing with each reiteration. The blocks of words are scratched away each time before the following version is added. The lines of text also create a sense of spacial depth.

There’s still a long way to go but there will be an end to it  soon. There has to be an end to it because it has to go to the framers in about a week and a half’s time. I hope it’ll be good enough!