These two silverpoint drawings are of people posing in fancy dress somewhere in Margate. One drawing is of people in the 1930s and the other is of people in the 2010s.
Both are currently on display at the Young Gallery in Salisbury in a small solo exhibition running alongside an exhibition of British 20th century paintings chosen from the Arts Council collection by the curator Peter Riley. I’m showing eleven silverpoint works and sixteen sketchbooks.
‘Margate Creatives, 2010s’ is based on a Facebook post from a Margate-themed party, held a few years ago at The Lido, Cliftonville, Margate. It shows two women in fancy dress. One is dressed as an estate agents’ sign and the other is dressed as a local businessman. Margate is currently experiencing the mixed blessings of ‘cultural regeneration’.
‘Margate Imperialists, 1930s’ is a group portrait based on a small postcard photograph found at an antique fair. The people in this drawing might be dressed for an Empire Day event or something similar. Here we see cliched depictions of working class, ethnic and foreign ‘types’ surrounding a young woman dressed as Britannia. Any similarities between anyone in this drawing and anyone currently living in Margate or Cliftonville are coincidental.
The choices of costume in both of these images are interesting and they both express something about the social attitudes of their times and places.
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.