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Anita Taylor, Vestiges 2012

Anita Taylor: Vestiges (2012).

Jerwood drawings

The Jerwood Gallery, Hastings celebrates twenty years of the Jerwood Drawing Prize with a Drawing exhibition. It highlights drawing as a medium in its own right and features some eminent artists who in the past have been on the panel of the selection committee of the Jerwood drawing competition. Looking around the exhibition, HOT reporter Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was impressed by the diversity of the work – figurative, abstract, conceptual, collage, painting  – but was also confused.

If one thinks drawing is strictly pencil and charcoal, this exhibition raises the question, what exactly is drawing?

Assistant curator Victoria Howarth kindly explained that essentially drawing is making marks and shapes in space. In the Jerwood’s annual drawing competition they loosely interpret the term, and encourage artists to explore any artistic medium: sculpture, painting, film. Drawing is not just pen and paper, but anything that leaves a mark.

Curated by Anita Taylor, the exhibition’s aim is to show drawing as an artist’s practice in its own right, not just as a preparatory stage for something bigger or more important.  Having understood that, it is a fascinating show.

Lisa Milroy, Search Me, 2014

Lisa Milroy: Search Me (2014).

There is a 3-D work by Lisa Milroy, Search Me, pen on cardboard. She has created layered drawings of mundane items – pen, lipstick, clock, comb, pencil sharpener. By layering them and giving them their own individuality they give an impression of clutter; by peering in between and behind the individual items it looks like those items congregating in the bottom of a woman’s handbag.

In contrast Timothy Hyman RA has drawn portraits of people: bringing people’s personalities to life in a matter of lines.  To me, who can only produce stick people, I feel in awe. He has drawn a poignant portrait of Tom Lubbock, the art critic, lying on a bed, his glasses askew, hand clutching at his dressing gown, close to death.

Anita Taylor, the curator, has drawn a large, bold self-portrait, Vestiges – except she would refer to it as a portrait of the self as opposed to a self-portrait. It’s a subtle difference as she attempts to look at her self dispassionately, but how easy is it to divorce yourself from yourself? I can feel her brooding, physical presence as she looks askance, hand on her chest. Interpreting herself through a ring of mirrors positioned around her, the charcoal marks show expressive gestures, yet the look is quiet and inward-looking. The eyes are unfocused, trance-like, a look of quiet reflection: capturing a moment in time.

Ken Currie Study for 'Self Portrait December'

Ken Currie: study for 'Self Portrait December.'

Howard says that at the recent portrait exhibition she would ask schoolchildren which images they thought were self-portraits. Interestingly, they were fairly spot-on at identifying the self-portait against a portrait.

Ken Currie has drawn two atmospheric studies of himself. One, slightly indistinct, fading away, distancing himself as if he is slightly disassociated from the world. Again, extraordinary to me, creating atmosphere and poignancy in a few shaded lines.

Jerwood installation - Cornelia Parker Stolen Thunder © Pete Jones

Jerwood installation - Cornelia Parker: Stolen Thunder (© Pete Jones).

Cornelia Parker, an artist I admire, has her own representation of drawing. In Stolen Thunder she has taken objects once owned and used by famous people and made marks  by rubbing the tarnish onto handkerchiefs. There is the tarnish from Charles Darwin’s sextant, Charles Dickens’ knife, Horatio Nelson’s candlestick and Guy Fawkes’ lantern. Not unlike charcoal drawings on cotton, abstract marks, white space leaching through. Rather beautiful.

Avis Newman, Tragic Evolutions, has drawn intriguing tender marks on layered pieces of paper: studies of cobwebs. Spiders laboriously weave such delicate, strong, transient and  tender-looking webs. yet they are so treacherous to other insects.

Emma Talbot has created a graphic novel of a drawing, Flower of Stroud. Velcroed to the wall, it seems to portray those agonising teenage years of growing up.  She writes her name Em, Emma, Emma Jane Talbot, several times, trying out her name, developing her writing, finding herself – her identity.

Corkscrew Michael Craig-Martin

Corkscrew Michael Craig-Martin

There is much to see in this exhibition. Even though it is not large, it is big in ambition and creation. Besides seeing the drawings of well-known artists – Michael Craig Martin, William Feaver, Rachel Whiteread, Eileen Cooper, Basil Beattie – there are different techniques to see, subjects, interpretations. I think it is remarkable that lines and marks can imbue shapes with atmosphere and a fully-formed personality – whether people, trees or abstract thoughts. And they all give the viewer the opportunity to weave their own thoughts into the fragile marks. Certainly food for thought.

Quentin Blake Artists on the beach

Quentin Blake: Artists on the Beach.

Then as an added bonus there is Quentin Blake and his wonderful characterful drawings. He has taken 10 of his favourite artists from the Jerwood collection and positioned them on the beach. There is Maggie Hambling with her wonderful witch-like nose and characteristic cigarette in hand, Alfred Wallis, the Cornish primitive artist, morose-looking with his droopy moustache, John Bratby looking wild and wonderful.

Drawn together: Artist as Selector continues at the Jerwood Gallery until 15 October. There are various drawing workshops during the summer –  see the website for dates and times. Jerwood Gallery, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW, Tues-Fri 11am-5pm, weekends 11am-6pm.

Posted 15:12 Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 In: Visual Arts

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