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.