Curated by Matthew Macaulay, Classroom, Coventry
Louisa Chambers, Chris Daniels, Lisa Denyer, Andrew Graves, Trevor Sutton, James Faure Walker, Jonathan Waller, Anthony Whishaw, Gary Wragg
To draw is to make an idea precise. Drawing is the precision of thought.
James Elkins in correspondence with John Berger wrote that drawing is the ‘invaluable record of the encounter of a moving, thinking hand with the mesmerising space of potential forms that it simply called a “blank sheet of paper”.’ Drawing was once considered in the Western academic tradition, to be the foundation of art education, and the mother of all the arts. The importance placed on drawing has been abandoned by most art schools as an irrelevant activity of a time past. John Elderfield in 1982 described drawing as the most resistant of all the modern arts to define. This exhibition takes its focus from the way in which eight painters individually approach drawing.
John Berger in his essay Life-Drawing (1960) wrote that ‘drawing is discovery’, for Gary Wragg often drawing is used in a way that opens new discoveries. Bryan Robertson stated in 1979 that in ‘his best paintings art seems to take images from his inner life by surprise, and it is Wragg’s strength as an artist that he transforms the elusive event into a rich visual celebration’. James Faure Walker works digitally and with water based paint on a loose sensual level, concentrating on what the paint and colour is doing and trying to discover a kind of unity within the artwork. For Walker and Wragg, there is an intention for the works to be deliberately ambivalent and open for interpretation, structured so they can be pieced together by the spectator’s imagination in several ways. The structures and figures in Andrew Graves work hover over off-white grounds, there is often a suggestion of an interpretation, a collapsed or dismantled box, an architectural model, a building, but it also suggests and engages with the speed or slowness of its making, provisional attempts at structure, and a reflection on colour theory.
In Anthony Whishaw’s work there seems to be a constant ‘knife edge’ between figuration and abstraction, the works offer 'a parallel experience to reality rather than a description of it'. This parallel experience can be seen in the two drawings on show, they offer up to the viewer’s eye several readings. The works on show seems to conjure up a kind of architectural space, such as doors, corridors and windows. These created spaces animate the surface and direct the eye in and out of the surface of the paper. Louisa Chambers has also been using drawing as a means of discovery. Drawing’s role has started to be a catalyst for the development of new areas of investigation. Her latest works on paper have been produced from a series of temporary sculptures that she has drawn from. These initial drawings became water based paintings, in the transformation between the drawing and painting a synthesis happens on the card that makes the art work something completely surprising and new. In the English language, the word draw comes from the old Saxon word dragan which means to drag. Lisa Denyer articulates the surface and space within her works by dragging elements such as card or painted paper across the surface into place. Denyer does not have any initial idea sketched out, she builds the painting up through improvisatory acts.
In his 1857 book The Elements of Drawing John Ruskin wrote, ‘everything that you see, in the world around you, presents itself to your eyes only as an arrangement of patches of different colours, variously shaded.’ Trevor Sutton has been working on paintings lately that are like breaths of colour. He creates small working drawings, and then delicately works on the final painting improvising and making changes as he proceeds. Chris Daniels makes small drawings in paint that act as peremptory sketches for some of the more designed paintings, these concentrate on the arrangement of marks and the colour interaction. The drawings in the exhibition by Jonathan Waller come from a body of work called ‘The Seven Ages of Man’. Both pieces in the exhibition are on paper, and have some level of painting involved within their process. Many preparatory drawing are made to formulate an idea and through this research an idea for a final image is arrived at. Waller starts by working in charcoal, creating an initial composition of the figure, he then uses a water based paint to create the beginning of the areas of colour. This obliterates the charcoal drawing until only a fraction of it is left. He then builds up the drawing with fine pastels, gradually refining the drawing.
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