Throughout London this month, there are a lot of exhibitions about lines and drawings. In addition to our ‘Lines in Drawings’ show, there is also ‘Lines of Thought’ at the Parisol Unit, ‘A Line of Drawing’ at Art First, ‘The Inception of Line’ at Coldharbour London, and ‘Taking a Line for a Walk’ at Vyner Street Gallery.
It makes you wonder why is there all this talk about lines? Why now?
While lines are implicit in other media of art, when we think about lines we first think about drawings, or at least I do. Drawing and sketching and writing is where you first try out ideas by hand, it is close, it is personal, it is subjective. In the April issue of Art Monthly, Christopher Townsend points out in his article, ‘On Drawings’ that during the Renaissance, artists exchanged drawings with their peers to not only show ‘a characteristic style, but one’s ‘identity’ at a time when distinction was a trait to be proudly acclaimed.’
Perhaps what we’re seeing lately, is a desire to turn to the thought, to the idea, to the beginning where artists in their drawings might mirror our own confusion of what is to come, of how things will turn out. Perhaps these works mirror our ceaseless questioning, wondering and anxiety.
“We still need to feel the wounds, the wounds of others and our own, to put our hands into the viscera,’ writes Townsend. “Without wishing to sound too much like John Berger, I would say that true writers, and I think, true artists take doubt as the central concern of their being: both make sketches that acknowledge their own, the world’s, the language’s, provisional, temporary, fragmented condition.”
There is a desire to return to the personal, the intimate, a return to the developing thought and idea. This is why a show like ‘Lines in Drawings’ works so well at 43 Inverness Street. In the gallery’s domestic setting the viewers are involved with the artists as if everyone was engaging in a salon, where communication is open and questions and ideas can be expressed.
Dustin Ericksen, who curated the show at 43 Inverness Street, said that ‘drawing is the mark of simultaneous thinking and action.’ Each drawing is the presence of the artist’s thought, the active thought that is in continuous movement. Each of the drawings in the show have a solitary feel to it, yet there is a communication between the viewer and the drawing and in effect the artist.
It would be interesting here to take the time to look more closely at each artist and see how these artists present themselves in their works.
Works by Sherman Sam and Charlotte Thrane
These works are similar in that they are small and are finished drawings but are presented as studies, as if they were notes on paper. Sam’s drawings show erasures and layers of shapes and ideas and pentimentos and erasures and re-thought out lines, while Thrane’s are singular lines in ink, crude abstract shapes as if they were empty vessels waiting to be filled. These are both the drawings of a thinker, of sketches and thoughts, of how one needs to put a thought down on paper in order to be lead to another one and then another one, where ideas can be developed and explored.
These works by Jieun Kim are the only ones that use watercolour in the show. This entitled works is ephemeral, fragile and airy. As if it were a whisper from the artist hiding around a corner. It is deceptively unassuming and has its own power as if it were a repetitive reminder to oneself of existence.
Meticulous mark over mark to bring out the red, the diamond patterns, the waves in the wooden cabinets. The sparse isolated room, the mysterious scientific instruments that make you wonder what kind of activity is conducted in a tip room. In fact, this drawing depicts the laboratory of David Baltimore, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 30 years ago for discovering reverse transcriptase, which deals with the reverse coding of DNA from RNA. It is a room of discovery and process.
Begun in 1998, ‘Untitled Sequence of Drawings’ is an (hypothetically) endless series. Each identical in size and medium, and returning continually to variations on the same themes, the drawings are intended to work as a whole from which continual rearrangements, regroupings, episodes and subsets can be formed. This repetition and variations that can be seen in three pieces on the first floor are slightly melodic and dark and questioning as if you can see the thought processes of the artist as he repeats motifs and performs variations.
This large work of Chinese ink on canvas is one of the largest pieces in the show and one of the most figurative works. The work shows coiling, turning figures in a pattern of leaves and vine-like designs. In some areas the ink is diluted to a faint grey so the figures are contoured out of a background of ink. (?)In some areas the ink bleeds into the canvas and while it looks like it may be an artist error, in fact these areas are intentional and are done to show the artist’s hand. It is not a perfect work and that is the intention, to show the presence of the artist, the artist’s hand as well as his thought process as the line works around the seepage.
Paul Noble’s ‘Sea IV’ is an impressive work of pencil on paper. The large amoeba shapes that cover the paper get smaller as they recede into the space giving you the sense of a calm sea extending deep into the horizon. Each shape is meticulously coloured in circular strokes in giving one the sense of the time it took to get the rich colour of lead and the pressure that the hand had to exert in order to get the rich colour of lead. This is the only work that hangs on the east wall of the first floor room.
Etchings by Victor Pasmore and Bryan Ingham
These are etchings by two prominent British artists of the 20th century and while they are multiples and don’t show the same intimate gestures of pencil on paper, etchings still reveal the artist hand and the manual labor that the artist had to produce in order to carve the lines onto the etching plate. With these two works, one of them figurative and one of them abstract, you can see the obsession with the line, the repetition and exaggeration of action towards completion.
With all of these works, there are many variations of the line on paper. Please stop by and see for yourself how each of these artists communicate their thoughts on paper.
‘Lines in Drawings’ 16 March – 20 April