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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: