Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Drawing and Existentialism

Continuing on the theme of drawing, I visited an artist friend of mine, Jonathan Marshall at the weekend at his home in County Durham. His own Fine Art practise stems from his interest in drawing and existential ideas concerning how the artist ‘that pushes forward the boundaries of new creativity must be aware of the void against which they create’, and how one deals with that crisis. Jonathan’s answer is for his drawings to form an enquiry into this crisis, countered with a desire to produce figurative work. He continually explores this through continual drawing, just with simple charcoal on paper, the motif of the head to look at ideas around identity and figurative purpose in the work.
The ideas are pretty complicated (and as usual I’m not explaining them very well at all here!), but a couple of years ago I was deeply moved by an exhibition of Jonathan’s at Darlington Arts Centre, ‘Head Works’, where he installed over 1000 of these drawings on one long wall. Contemplating this wall of drawings, that just seemed to wrap themselves around you as your eyes darted from one drawing to the next trying to process the information, I was really struck by the intense futility and desperation present in the work, something Jonathan was trying to assert. The ‘existentialism’ and sense of the void seemed momentarily overwhelming. It was a very powerful experience.

We found ourselves at the Durham L.I Museum and Arts Centre on Saturday, where this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize was on show. I must say I was really disappointed by the exhibition. There were around 60 pieces selected from over 2500 entries, and I was really baffled how this could be the most interesting from such a large field. I love and appreciate drawing in its all different manifestations and forms, and look at drawings all the while, so it was dispiriting to see so many that were just plain nasty.

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