By Zelga S Miller, MFA Fine Art, Wimbledon College of Arts
Under-the-radar is how I would summarise this travelling Arts Council Collection touring exhibition entitled Drawn from Life: People on Paper. However, this belies a stunning collection of British masterpieces worthy of any high profile exhibition space in the heart of our cultural capital.
A rich and substantial collection of works focused on drawing which indeed reminds us that whereas a painting may be regarded as a finished work, a drawing allows a freedom of expression which may be lost in the final piece – a rapid execution may catch the sitter off guard, allowing a greater insight into their thoughts or, indeed, the artists practice. The idea of this exhibition focused purely on portraiture becomes therefore irresistible.
Even if you don’t feel drawing is your thing, this sublime monochrome collection of figurative masterpieces celebrates some of our most talented artists. Fellow artists that we might initially associate with sculpture, painting or installation but whom upon closer inspection are supremely talented in the art of drawing.
We see Hepworth’s initial sketches from surgery, Lowry’s sleek dark man, Hockney’s almost painterly workings through to Sir Peter Blake’s evocative, detailed long nosed man. We remember Howard Hodgkin as the great artist he is in pencil and charcoal long before his more recent “Absent Friends” body of work.
I looked through the three white rooms that housed such precious specimens where I found more pieces than I could absorb at one time. The likes of Walter Sickert, Michael Landry and Antony Gormley through to the haunting works of Frank Auerbach and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Needless to say that it made me pick up my pencil and graphite again and recognise the skill and eye for detail one needs when it comes to drawing but also remembering how satisfying time spent looking, seeing and then drawing can be.
My only disappointment was of course the lack of female representation again outweighed by our male counterparts. This is of course a common theme in the narrative of today but one I hope that myself and the current generation of female artists at Wimbledon College of Art and beyond will seek to address.
Drawn from Life: People on Paper
Artists have been drawing the human figure for centuries, from carefully composed life drawings to people caught unaware at leisure or work. This exhibition brings together some of the finest drawings in the Arts Council Collection with loans from the British Council Collection. It begins in the early twentieth century with Gwen John’s delicate lines, the intricate patterns of Harold Gilman and the precision of William Roberts. Mid-twentieth-century works include the whimsical lines of George Fullard and John Golding and the bold markings of Frank Auerbach and John Bratby. The story is brought up to the present with the imaginary figures of Charles Avery and Mimei Thompson.
Though there are sometimes surprising similarities across the decades, there is also a great diversity of techniques and approaches. The majority are drawn from observation, though some are from memory or imagination; some are unfinished studies while others are finished works in their own right. Perhaps some of the most surprising examples are those from very early on in artists’ careers, such as a self-portrait by Richard Hamilton from 1938, the carefully drawn Mrs Ash Asleep by Howard Hodgkin, 1952 and Eduardo Paolozzi’s Drawings from Rembrandt, 1945.
TOUR DATES & VENUES
Usher Gallery, Lincoln
26 February 2016 – 17 April 2016
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
29 October – 17 December 2016
The Beaney, Canterbury
6 May – 25 June 2017
Leamington Spa, Art Gallery & Museum
7 July – 17 September 2017
Berwick, Granary Gallery
28 October 2017 – 7 January 2018
Zelga Simone Miller