I don’t want to show you what I’m working on right this moment because it’s top secret, hush, hush.
So instead, here’s a picture of an ongoing metalpoint drawing which I continue to work on from time to time and which is part of a larger project about people seen in old photographs found in a Margate second hand shop.
There is a Margate connection with all of these drawings: some are definitely drawings of people who were in Margate at some point in time but others may never have been here and only their images ever found their way to The Isle of Thanet. For some reason or other their images were eventually placed in a junk shop in Cliftonville from where they came into my hands. Now I’m drawing them and wondering what connections there might be between me and them.
The photograph which this particular silverpoint drawing is based upon is an old photograph which was probably taken in Germany in the 1930s or 1940s. At some point in time it had been torn in half but then so carefully glued back together again that it wasn’t obvious at first that it had been torn in two. I want to find a way to get the fact of its partial destruction and its careful fixing into the stuff of the drawing itself – it’s an interesting artistic problem.
This silverpoint drawing is presently on show in St Ives, Cornwall, as part of Anima-Mundi’s ‘Mixed Winter 17’ exhibition. It’s a drawing about people and about a moment in time in Margate (a seaside town in the south east of England).
The drawing is about the size of an A1 sheet of paper but it’s drawn with silver on thick layers of gesso on board (silverpoint). The work is based on a small postcard image found at an antique fair. Here we see a group of mostly young adults, and a few children, dressed in a variety of fancy dress costumes depicting a mix of social and ethnic ‘types’. There is ‘A Margate Landlady’, a ‘Red Indian’, men dressed as women, people ‘blacked up’, various ‘foreigners’ and even someone dressed-up as a member of the Klu Klux Klan (make of those details what you will). The presence of ‘Britannia’, in the centre of the group, makes me think they are at an Empire Day event.
This is a drawing about people and about a place and a moment in time. It might bring to mind thoughts around identity, self-expression, ‘otherness’ and about taste. These people look thrilled to be in costume and playing with identities. A few years later came The War. Their choices of costume bring into focus thoughts about British Imperialism and about attitudes to class and to foreigners and so forth. This drawing is also about a group of people expressing themselves and about people looking happy in each other’s company and they looking towards us.
The act of drawing someone’s image is a kind of meditation of their presence beyond their appearance. More accurately it’s a meditation on what I imagine is their personality as given to me via a small photographic image. It’s a drawing and I’m glad it’s being seen in St Ives right now.
Margate Imperialists 1930s, 2017, silver on gesso on board, 21cm x 30cm.
Work on this drawing has come to an end. I could carry on working on it but I shan’t.
The drawing is based on a small photographic image on a postcard taken somewhere in Margate in the 1930s. My guess is that the people here were dressed for an Empire Day event. This is one of a number of drawings based on the same image. It is one of a series of drawings based on images of people dressed in costumes of some sort and with a Margate connection.
In a Margate junk shop I can connect anything with anything.
A lot of my work draws on people and things connected with Margate. A recurring theme is the way in which the slightest things in life, and the humblest objects that exist, can be linked to, and imply the presence of, the world’s biggest events.
Here is a picture of some works in progress captured in a moment of a Margate sunset light. These silverpoint drawings are based on found photographs taken in Germany in the 1930s. Somehow they made their way into a secondhand shop in Cliftonville in 2017. And from there they came into my hands.
There was a point in time when a momentary look was captured in the instant of a photographic image. Now, here, l am taking time to look at those traces of those moments in those people’s lives and drawing – I could almost say conjuring – something out of them. We’ll see what comes of it.
I shall post more about this work as it develops further.
You can see earlier images of this work on Instagram.
This drawing is resting. I stopped work on it a couple of months ago. I might continue to work on it sometime in the future but for now it’s resting in a drawer.
The medium is silverpoint on gesso (click on ‘silverpoint’ on the list of categories to read about the medium) and it’s about the size of a sheet of A4 paper. It’s based on a postcard, probably from the mid 1930s, of people dressed in fancy dress somewhere in Margate. This drawing was to form part of a series of drawings based on images of people, with a Margate connection, dressed in costumes of some sort. The idea was to have the drawings shown together and to allow people to make connections between the people in the different drawings and to bigger world events (the images I have in mind are from before or during The Second World War). It’s also to think about identity and what we imagine about others based on the way they look. I’ve worked on several versions of this image (and on sections of it) but for now the work is resting. It might be years before work in this begins again.