03 October 2014

Contemporary Art Sketchbook Walk course, week 1

The title of the course is a bit mind-boggling, and I wasn't at all sure what to expect. We met at Old St station and spent the afternoon in various galleries, stretching our visual sensibilities and filling pages in our sketchbooks.

The focus this week was line.
First stop was Standpoint, which was showing Nicola Tassie's work - and as she happened to be in the gallery at that moment, she told us about it - the homage to Philip Guston, Cezanne [ceramic apples in the window], and of course Morandi; the vessel as a carrier of meaning, so that the sealed bottles contain secret meanings; the inebriated bottles falling over, having imbibed their contents; the irrelevance of studio ceramics, given the difficulty of making a living that way. 

On to Charlie Smith, which you enter via a pub. The amazingly shiny charcoal drawings by Reece Jones (polymer varnish is involved...) were outshone, in my eyes, by a row of wooden sculptures by Matthew Cowan, beautifully carved and flawlessly painted -
In Order to See the Past, We Have to Walk Backwards Into the Future
Next, to Carl Freedman, where, behind an applique curtain, Nel Aerts was showing "Lord Nelson's Portrait Gallery" - layers of paint on wood, with the image partly built up, partly gouged out through the layers. A fabric version of "Sailor of the Sea, Lover of the Bottle" is on the other side of the curtain -

Drawing really does make you look at the work more deeply (and more kindly). I found the "gaudy gathering of colourful, comic figures" and their "humour, light-hearted mockery and anguish" very "so what", but was intrigued by the way they were made. From the info sheet: "They are tragicomic in all the contrasts they cry out. Digging, sometimes protesting, the portraits came crawling out of the wood. Some of them are more extroverted than introverted, they scream rather than remain inert. Yet they are introspective and self-deprecating."

Time for tea/coffee ... and a look at what everyone had done so far - 
Then on to Hales Gallery to see the "deceptively dark" work of Omar Ba, who studied in his native Senegal and in Geneva. His works, according to the info sheet, "combine memories of his motherland with experiences of his current home in Geneva" - some of the paintings were made on his recent visit to Dakar. They are painted on corrugated cardboard, and the sculpture in the small room consists of cardboard boxes, cinched together. "Images of warfare and symbols of political power are diffused among elaborate patterns and vibrant colours, often inspired by traditional Senegalese ornaments." The figures in the paintings "seem to exist in limbo between African and Western cultures and painterly traditions".

 Details, showing combinations of materials (oil, gouache, ink, pencil, acrylic) -

As for the actual drawing ... I was happy with my all-purpose fine felt-tip and wasn't tempted to use pencil - or a pen that made a thicker line. Some of my drawings home in on details, but I'm most intrigued by this overview of the "scratched and hatched" jugs and cups, which takes out their most striking feature, the hatch-marks that coalesce them into a group, and restores their individuality and shows their interaction ... I can't help thinking of them as a flock of birds, with the jug spouts resembling beaks, and the handles, are they plumage?
Being limited as to time meant not worrying if the drawings were "perfect" [hah!] - you just looked as carefully as you could and put down some lines to remind yourself of the looking. 

When it came to drawing the paintings, one lot seemed too "simple" to be interesting, and the other too complicated to be dealt with as a totality - my way round that was to do an "unseeing" drawing of a boat in one of the paintings, then to draw it again, looking at the page, along with the adjoining boat.

(This post is linked to Off the Wall Fridays, where you can see what lots of creative people have been up to.)

1 comment:

Kaja said...

This looks like a really interesting way to spend a few hours - you are lucky to have so much on your doorstep. I like your drawing of the jugs - it does indeed have a bird-like feel to it.