Sample-Studios Gallery, The Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park
6th October - 3rd November 2022
Drawbridge and Sample-Studios are collaborating on Drawing Connections - an exhibition and research project which explores drawing practice, experimental approaches, and begins by responding to drawings held within the Crawford Art Gallery drawing collection.
Sample-Studios and MTU Drawbridge sent out a call to graduates of the last ten years who undertook the MTU MA Art & Process course whose work encompasses drawing practice. 10 artists took up the invitation to respond to a particular drawing in the Crawford Art Gallery collection by making a new work for Drawing Connections in October 2022 at the Sample Studios run space - The Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald's Park, Cork.
The 10 artists involved are MTU MA:AP Graduates, whose work delves into the expanded field of drawing practice as, for example: embodied act or performance, as site specific response or narrative, as a method of capturing and exploring interactive collaborations, etc.
‘Draw lines… a lot of lines, whether they’re from memory or from Nature.’ 1
This advice from Ingres to Degas in the late C19th is a starting point that may well sit happily in art schools today, but at that time artists were not only drawing and painting from nature and memory; they were making work by looking at and copying the drawings and paintings of others. In 1857 Degas himself spent a year in Italy where he created copies of Renaissance paintings. This would have been the hallmark of artistic training at the Crawford College of Art and Design at its inception in the mid C19th, where, as in all other art schools and academies, fine artists would have started by drawing from the cast collection before embarking on life-drawing, but also worked from drawings in the collection.
The life room studies by William Willes, Head Master of the school of art in the 1850s, were even made specifically as teaching aids to be copied by students. The place of copying as a means of acquiring skills in art colleges today is somewhat redundant, but the primacy of drawing as process is not. This project aimed to test in what ways looking at, drawing from and researching into existing drawings, can form the catalyst for new works – in other words we wanted to track the progress of artists in the process of drawing connections.
The 10 selected artists were given a chance to spend time with their selected piece during viewing day in the Crawford Art Gallery on 11th May 2022 (as part of National Drawing Day events), and to talk to curator Michael Waldron about their chosen piece. The drawings were taken out of storage and displayed in the old library, at the gallery.
Most artists showed an urgency to engage in study of their chosen drawing and were also keen to share that engagement; to use social engagement as a means of generating thoughts and ideas and responses around their own research process. One or two artists showed a profound unease about looking, or perhaps about being seen to look – under the tutor’s gaze perhaps. They used the occasion to relate to others, almost turning away from the intrusion of the artworks which were arrayed on the central table. Still others were intent upon their own looking and drawing and writing; resisting any interruption – which would usually be my own response if given the chance to spend time with works from reserve collections, but what is interesting here is the range of dialogues, conversations, relations between objects, bodies and actions.
This question is a live issue for many artists today, insistently challenging any rigid definition of what a drawing can be. Bochner goes on to state that
This might be the leitmotif of this project – artists have responded to drawings in the collection at the Crawford Art Gallery, but this exhibition is far from being a medium specific exhibition of drawings from drawings. What is so interesting about this intermedia factor is the endless generosity of drawings. Neither the start nor the end of artistic production, today they take part in an ongoing conversation between artists, between media and between artworks.
One of the themes that emerged in the choice of drawings by participating artists is the body, both as subject and as means – a sort of dance between pose, gesture and glance. Ciara Rogers chose to respond to a figurative drawing by Suzy O’Mullane, by making a gestural drawing performance created in situ, in the gallery and recorded on film.
One of the life studies by William Willes, depicting male life figures in combat, was chosen by both Peter Nash and Lynn-Marie Dennehy as the catalyst for their responses which are of course in contrast to the task of those Victorian students, bound to obedient verisimilitude and striving to develop their repertoire of drawing techniques and to master stock poses which themselves derived from the repertoire of classical sculpture. What is interesting here is the idea of circularity - that drawings lead to other drawings – or lead to something else… in this case an animation, and a life-sized laser cut print.
The theme of drawing as record and observation of place connected with the practice of several exhibiting artists. Raphael Llewellyn, Ida Mitrani , Cassandra Eustace and Aoife Claffey. Historical works by Nellie Mockler, Sarah Grace Carr and Thomas Rowlandson and recent work by Kim Jones. This has inspired responses to specific topographies of cities and the textures of countryside, by focusing on techniques of reproduction, surveillance and mapping.
The third theme that has arisen is through the choice of Brian Fay’s drawing Vermeer Lady Writing a Letter, 2007 which Catherine chose to have at the viewing and which Jamie and also Kate then responded to once in the room, so it became important for focusing on touch and trace but most of all exemplifies the peer interaction and the intuitive response to works, that happened on the day. This interaction - a layering of voices, provided the catalyst for Kate’s new interactive sound piece. Catherine focuses on Brian’s recording of the effects of time and human touch on the surface of the Vermeer. Fay uses modern techniques to find traces of damage hidden beyond the range of the naked human eye. This brings to the fore issues of visibility, translation and access; using braille. Like Catherine, Jamie contacted Brian Fay and discussed entropy and the capture of degradation as a duty of care towards a work of art and this feeds into her own practice around use of rubbings and imprinting of the body onto cloth which is then buried in the ground.
To begin the project, the participating artists identified works they were interested in from the Crawford Art Gallery drawing collection. On Wednesday 11th May 2022, artists were given the opportunity to visit and sit with their chosen pieces, and gain knowledge on the works from Assistant Curator of Collections and Special Projects Michael Waldron.
Edmund de Waal writes about the relationship between his dual output of writing and making pots as
It is this bringing into language that interests me here. So is drawing on other drawings a kind of non-verbal dialogue? A call and response across centuries and media that can bypass the spoken and written word? Of course the answer has to be yes, and yet I am also interested in the talking, writing and note taking that goes on constantly, and often invisibly around this silent exchange that comprises the language of art. In studio visits and on the viewing days one of the most valuable and prolific productions was not drawings, but words. Spoken and written. The specific kinds of talk and writing and thought that is generated when in the presence of artworks fascinates me. Studio visits are obviously focused on the work, and the work is like another character in the room; generating discussion just as volubly as the people present. And the other thing about studio discussions is the relaxed and spontaneous use of language by artists when they are in their own spaces. Edmund de Waal’s interview quoted above, would be a case in point, when Hella Pick describes her ninety minutes with de Waal as
I recognise this feeling of emerging both full and also hungry for more, when leaving the studios of the artists in this show.
From this experience, Drawbridge has delved into the artists thoughts about drawing from drawings; inspiration, research on chosen works, trigger ideas and further developments in proposed pieces for the exhibition. We went about tracking the variety of ways in which drawings, both historical and contemporary, are seen in some sense as 'prior' to finished works and to re-investing in the idea of drawing as preparatory to finished works. What is engaging about this show is that drawing is once again the starting point of the process of creating new works in a variety of media, but it does not necessarily entail copying as an exercise.
Senior Lecturer at MTU Crawford College of Art & Design, and course director of MA Art & Process. For more information on the MA:AP course please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Dr.Michael Waldron and the Crawford Art Gallery. The Crawford Art Gallery are currently exhibiting Drawing Room (9th September – 4th December 2022) a show which celebrates contemporary and historic drawing practice which Drawing Connections is delighted to be coinciding with.
Visit to Crawford Art Gallery, May 2022