Just when you thought that it was difficult to find exhibitions of drawings and watercolours, a number have appeared on the scene. Following on from the Courtauld’s excellent Mantenga to Matisse exhibition we now have Sculptors’ Drawings at Kings Place. In addition there is the Jerwood Drawing Prize at Jerwood Visual Arts London on until 28th October and for watercolourists ‘Cotman in Normandy’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (10th October – 13th January) is one not to be missed. Serious drawing enthusiasts might also like to make their way to The Drawing Room in Bermondsey, which is the only dedicated art gallery for contemporary drawing in London.
Kings Place is a new concert and exhibition space at London’s Kings Cross. The exhibition is collaboration between two galleries based at Kings Place, Pangolin London and Kings Place Gallery, and takes up the entire public space with over 100 works from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. The range of sculptors’ drawings on display is comprehensive and it seems to include everyone from Aristide Maillol to Ossip Zadkine by way of Carl Andre and Tim and Sue Webster.
The expectation is to see big bold sculptural statements that have a three dimensional quality and presence and there are a few of those. When tackling the nude, certain artists such as Glynn Williams, Michel Ayrton and Frank Dobson will give due attention to the masses and form of the body while others such as Eric Gill, and surprisingly Anthony Caro go in for a much more linear approach. The range of drawing on show is educational. William Tucker’s articulate abstract charcoal drawings must surely have been drawn from his rather lumpy sculpture and one must feed of the other so close is the relationship between the two. Other drawings seem to have been done independently, like Nigel Hall’s ‘Drawing 1588.’ A master of the minimalist statement, these numbered drawings demonstrate an assured simplicity and presence with their interlocking shapes.
Drawing tends to come in all shapes and sizes from doodles to diagrams and from fine draughtsmanship to definitive statements. Of course some of the work on display cannot be described as drawing and to try and “push the boundaries of the traditional definition of drawing” is not necessary when there are perfectly good words available to describe collage, video installation, printmaking and computer aided graphics. For example Abigail Lane and Mat Collinshaw’s prints are colour photogravures and lithographs with no drawing in sight and Sarah Lucas’s collage of cigarettes is just what it says on the packet.
However prints that are made by the drawing process come into their own with Hans Belmar’s surreal combination of body parts while Picasso’s lithograph of a Bacchanalian scene has trumpets blaring and symbols crashing. By contrast Naum Gabo’s modestly sized monoprint show his abstract sculptures in a quiet and reflective light.
Damien Hirst is not normally known for his drawings, but here he provides us with examples. This stratospherically successful artist will not be bothered by this poor reviewer’s opinion, but I do find his drawing style cartoonish, adolescent and awkward. His drawing ‘ School – the psychology of dreams’ (2006) shows in diagrammatic fashion two sides of beef hanging in a vitrine on top of which is an old fashioned teacher’s mortar board complete with tassel. In front are rows of autopsy tables with buckets underneath and decapitated pigs and a shark (the students I suppose) are attached to drip feeds. In an aid to understanding how this idea for an installation will work he includes an instruction – “like one of those early episodes of the Batman series for T.V.” On a more positive note it shows that at the creative ideas stage, all options should be tried out even when they tend to be ridiculous.
More accomplished work can be seen in the drawings of Michael Sandle. His ‘Hebebuhne’ (1980) an ink and chalk drawing which shows an expressive but precise understanding of perspective and feeling for space is an excellent interpretation of what this sculpture would look like in situ.
Lesser-known names that stood out include Susie MacMurray who makes garment sculptures, installations and drawings. Her contribution was an ink drawing called ‘Two hairnets No4’ (2011) that has observational precision focussed on the depicting of such a mundane and unlikely object. It also shows her concern for using textiles in her overall conceptual art practise.
Gillian Jagger on the other hand is an older artist long resident in USA whose father was one of Britain’s best-known 20th century realist sculptors – Charles Sargeant Jagger . He can also be found in the exhibition and is best known for his Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. Gillian seems to be an equally talented artist, her large scale and impressive charcoal drawing of a bull called ’ ‘Endure’ (2004) stands out in the show.
This must be the largest exhibition ever dedicated solely to the drawings of sculptors. Beautifully displayed and making full use of the available space, it is well worth a visit.