life, death and drawing

February 28, 2013

Last week I got up early and made my way to London to meet dear friends and unintentionally set out a nicely themed day. Not wanting to stray too far on a Saturday we first visited the Foundling Museum to see their collection of tokens and swatches of fabric kept to identify parent and child.  Tokens included playing cards, rings, bent coins and my favourite, a hazelnut, a little dented but still intact. The fabric swatches came from those brought in with each child and were attached to a list of the wardrobe and belongings left with them entered into a thick ledger. The parent kept the token to reclaim the child when they were able and this did happen but sometimes they came too late and sometimes not at all. The power invested in these small tokens through the emotion and responsibility attributed to them is really something.

For more tokens and objects invested with power we walked over to the British Museum’s Ice Age Art exhibition where the keen eyes and hands of humans 40,000 years before us described the limbs and movements of animals perfectly. I’m a little baffled by my feeling that although we’ve refined our tools and materials in 40,000 years we have not been able to improve our drawing skills. If anyone could enlighten me or add to it, please do! (I’m afraid I didn’t read much of the interpretation material).  Perhaps the person making these drawings at the time was considered a master, perhaps they all had that level of skill – having never been told they couldn’t. Again I was moved by the animated version of the cave paintings projected across a cave wall….if only there had been more of this….and resolve again to reflect on the ways cave paintings were intended to be seen: on a particular journey, to create a narrative and a learning experience. I suppose we use this approach in lots of ways now, down to the psychology of supermarket layout, but I’d much prefer a rambling adventure through caves, hollow ways  and undergrowth.

Finally we had a quick glide around the wonderful Wellcome Collection’s Death exhibition after the attendant had informed us that “there would be no more Death in 15 minutes”. A brilliant suite of prints by Otto Dix and some lovely old photos of people posing with a skull. I was surprised that each piece of work seemed to have skulls or skeletons in it (though I might have missed something in the rush) and I wondered if we could make work about death without a reference to our skeletal frames. I think we can and do, but maybe that wouldn’t be so befitting for the Welcome Collection.

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a blustery bluecoat morning

February 4, 2013

Last week I took the train to Liverpool on a bitter cold windy morning, it was great to walk round the city for an hour or two, pushing against the wind and looking up just in time to see some great architectural detail, so many good buildings and sites to see. I didn’t take my camera so you will just have to imagine the cobbled streets full of sailors and goods coming off the boats, well they were there at some point in time, I’m sure that I saw them.

I went to the Bluecoat Arts Centre to see the Hayward Touring exhibition of prints by the wonder that is William Kentridge. I’ve enjoyed his work for some time now, having poured over my copy of Supercontemporanea:William Kentridge I’d  only seen a couple of his brilliant animations in the flesh so I was a bit taken aback by the 4 rooms full of his incisive prints. Some prints were made in collaboration with other printmakers and many were editioned by others, but there is no escaping that the drawing belongs to Kentridge. Most of the work is black and white, often including collaged papers, domestic objects, text. The physicality of the human body is evident not only in depiction but from the torn scraps of paper, smudged lines,layers of ink and fingerprints in the etched plates that describe moving flesh. Politics, human frailty and  transience are all brought together into a theatre of images. He does make good images.

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This, of course is not one of them, but something I did years ago around the time I first saw his work – 7 FRAGMENTS FOR GEORGES MÉLIÈS . I made a drawing of myself dive into the dappled light.