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 Creatives, 2010s (silverpoint on gesso on board, 20.7cm x 14.2cm) is one of an ongoing series of small silverpoint drawings of people in costume, or in uniform, with a connection to the English seaside town of Margate.
How people choose to dress, or what they are required to wear for their jobs, can say a lot about a particular place at a particular time.
For example, small photograph of a smiling man, dressed in Battledress and walking down Cliftonville’s Northdown Road on a sunny day in 1940, says something about Margate during a time of war; and yet it is also just a picture of a smiling man seen on a sunny day (this image may become the basis of a future drawing) .
In my drawing, Margate Imperialists, 1930s (see earlier posts), we see men dressed as women, someone dressed as a working class ‘Margate Landlady’, a black-faced minstrel and a member of the Klu Klux Klan. All of these people are assembled around a young woman dressed as Britannia. Perhaps it was Empire Day.
In 2010s Margate we see two women at a Margate-themed party: one dressed as a local businessman and the other dressed as an estate agent’s ‘SOLD’ sign. Margate is presently experiencing the mixed blessings of ‘cultural regeneration’.
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 (silverpoint on gesso on board) was recently on show at The National Portrait Gallery, in London, in an exhibition which included about a hundred A5 size portraits donated by mystery artists. The work was for sale as part of the 2017 Portrait Gala event and The Mystery Portrait Postcard exhibition. The gala event and exhibition were part of a fund raising event to raise money for the gallery. The exhibition lasted for about three weeks but the names of the artists were kept a secret until just last week. I’m now allowed to say that this one was mine.
The drawing is based on a photo booth image of my mum which was probably used for a bus pass. It’s one of an on going series of drawings based on photo booth images. Photobooth images capture little, unimportant, moments of a person’s life.
Scroll down this home page or click on the ‘people’ category to find examples of related works.