Saatchi Gallery – School Prize Retrospective

It was in 2011 that a portrait painting of mine became a finalist in the Saatchi Gallery Sunday Telegraph Art Prize for Schools. This was an amazing achievement which really encouraged me to continue my education within the arts. Since then, I have gained a foundation diploma and a degree in Fine Art at Loughborough University. Here, I was able to discover my true passion, drawing.

Currently, I am studying for a PGCE in Art and Design to become an Art Teacher. I have been inspired by the amazing teachers and tutors who sparked my passion for art.

To my surprise, Saatchi Gallery contacted me this week asking if I would like to participate in the School Prize Retrospective. Short-listed works will be re-displayed alongside  current work to show how ideas and approaches can evolve and develop through further education within the arts.

I was asked if I would like to create another wall drawing to represent my current drawing practice. I accepted, and before I knew it I was standing in front of a 9 metre piece of wall within the Saatchi Gallery!

I decided that I wanted to stretch the wall drawing across the entire length of the wall, so that it could interact with the space of the gallery.  I knew this would be challenging within the limited time that I had available. I didn’t have time to think, I needed to just draw and get as much done as a possibly could without compromising the quality of the work. I had to ignore the overwhelming sense of pressure which had the potential to squash all my creative ability. Imagine the artists fear of the blank page and times it by ten ! Despite this, I started to draw, sanding down areas of wall to ensure a smooth surface for the pencils to glide over. Loop, loop, loop, repeat…….I had a strange sense of deja vu.

12 pencils later, 2 sanding pads, hundreds of sharpenings, and 30 hours of drawing I managed to complete the piece.

Waves of dark intense areas of graphite meet areas of large loops, creating contrast and movement. The piece draws attention to the mundane humble pencil, which usually only gets used for preparatory purposes within the confines of sketchbooks. The looping mark is used to build surface texture and resemble a doodling technique. During the drawing process I am able to lose myself, completely focussing on the drawing. Everything surrounding me becomes a blur, it is just me and the pencil leaving a trace on the walls. The drawing exists directly on the surface of the wall, allowing the space to become transformed. There is an ephemeral quality to the drawing, knowing that it will only exist for a short amount of time before it has to be painted over.

This was a surreal experience, one which I will never forget.

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Final conclusion

This has been a journey of realisation and discovery on many levels. An exploration into drawing as a medium, discipline and a way of life through commitment and dedication. An in depth inquiry into the history of drawing, highlighting its true importance existing from the beginning of time as the first art form created using a stick to draw a line in the dirt. To the infamous cave drawings of Lascaux, it is evident that drawing is embedded in our being, a natural primal instinct to communicate through the use of drawing.

I had become frustrated as an artist not being able to achieve the results I wanted from painting and sculpture, it was clear to me that I needed to discover who I was by taking my practice back to the basics, drawing. Exploring gestures through repetition to create surface texture. This was a relaxed doodling approach which allowed my mind to rest and reflect on life. As a student with minimal money this suited my economic struggles as drawing was accessible and reasonably cheap. However, it seemed ludicrous to be buying paper (yet more money) when I could easily utilise the space around me, the paper-like walls called out to me. The walls of the studio became the surface for my drawings to exist upon. This seemed to increase the fragility of the drawing as it would only exist on a temporary basis, the drawing became ephemeral. The drawing transformed the space of the studio, much like how the paper becomes part of the drawing, the walls became part of the drawing. Furthermore, the solidarity of the walls transformed the effect of the graphite illuminating its silvery hue as the light beamed through the windows bouncing off the walls.

It made sense to continue my work with drawing, I had made a connection, it was my release which allowed expression through the language of gestures. After exploring a range of mark making I decided to commit to just one mark, to create a focus. The mark I decided to use was the looping mark, a playful gesture which can be repeated fluidly, a flowing motion across the page rapidly building up layers, creating surface texture. I soon realised the range of tonality could be created by changing the softness/hardness of the pencil. This created a sense of movement within the drawing as dark and light tonalities clustered together creating a mesmerising effect within the drawing.

I wanted to continue to push the medium of drawing and discover new possibilities and open up new avenues which perhaps would shock the viewer who had doubted the capabilities of the medium, which had previously been confined to the privacy of the sketchbook. I was driven to engage with the space of the studio once again and strived to create a whole wall of drawing, stretching over the entrance to my space. This was achieved within semester one of final year, but something inside wanted me to continue drawing into semester two and transform the drawing into an installation. This was something that I had never even imagined of creating before, I was out of my comfort zone.

I wanted the viewers to be confronted by drawing; to be encapsulated in it, exceeding all expectations, beyond any confines or restrictions, to create a visceral experience, engage and interact with the studio space directly, enabling the viewers to have a fuller experience not just to be ‘viewers’ but as the ‘experiencer’, to place the viewers in the heart of the art, to create an atmospheric infinite space.

And so, I set myself the task to complete the drawing installation within the last semester. This would require an immense commitment to enable completion. Through careful planning and calculations I worked out a time plan that would get the drawing finished before the final degree show. First I had to ensure that I had confirmation that C21 would be my space well in advance so that I could just continue working from the previous wall drawings from last semester. Once confirmed, I started drawing, aiming to complete about 6 hours of drawing a day. This was an exhausting process but a rewarding one as I saw the space transform gradually over the course of 7 weeks. Challenges were met when I discovered obstacles which proved to be difficult to draw upon, such as the pipe and ledges. However, I was determined to overcome these challenges and transform every last element of the space into the drawing.

Each section of wall was rigorously sanded down to create a smooth surface to draw upon, this prevented any unwanted texture which would ruin the quality and flow of the marks. However, I soon realised that the electric sander left its own trail of minute looping marks which were then highlighted white when I drew over them. At first I was unsure whether I liked these effects and was concerned whether they would detract the eye away from the drawing. But I soon saw these additional marks as another type of drawing which connected the process to the final piece.

The movement within the installation was unplanned and was visualised at the last minute, each area of dark tonality would be blended out to meet with a light alternate tonality this would then interact and lead onto another dark area of drawing. I intended to create areas of drama, whereby the viewer would look up to dark looping motions showering down over them. I decided not to entirely cover the wall in drawing and instead have an uneven edge which had a mountainous feel, each peak and ditch responding to the movement within the drawing. Furthermore creating a contrast between the whiteness of the wall and the dense drama of the drawing.

After 122 hours of drawing, the installation was complete. I finished with a sense of achievement having persistently worked of the drawing for seven weeks, making and remaking the same mark over and over. I have transformed the space into something that represents me, I have left my own trace, much like the cave men in Lascaux transforming the surface of the caves into a personalised space. One last decision I needed to make before the final show was what to do with the floor; do I draw onto it? Do I do I paint it? Or do I leave it just as it is? This was something that I needed to carefully consider as one wrong move would change the entire effect of the installation. Eventually after much deliberation I decided to leave the drawing as it was. The reason being that the pencil sharpening’s and dust were both elements of the drawing and were result of the drawing being made. It would reveal the method and process taken to transform the space. I felt if I had painted the floor that it would flatten and strip away any atmosphere created by the white dust.

I feel that this was a journey that needed to be completed and resolved through a crescendo, meeting feats of scale on a personal level. This has been an ongoing enquiry since semester one which inevitably ended in an installation, this was an urge that I had to meet and achieve. I wanted to create a piece of work that exemplified the true beauty of a simple medium, whilst expressing and exploring my own inner psyche. I realised things about drawing that I hadn’t thought about before, it is such a personal medium, so close to the movements of the hand which was controlled by my brain, no two marks are the same and all are unique to my own touch, no two people can create the same marks, each are individual to the person.  Drawing has a universal connection to all human beings and I hope this will enable my viewers to connect with the installation, as everyone at some point has created their own drawing and therefore will be able to relate and interact with the space that I have created.

There are many more possibilities for future creation as drawing is limitless and endless, other gestures can be explored as can the surfaces upon which it exists on. From researching a range of historic and contemporary artists who are all influenced by drawing in some way, I have learnt and realised how diverse drawing is and have taken inspiration from many of them which could develop and extend my practice, my passion and my infatuation with drawing.

Wall drawing

As a continuum from previous works I decided to return to drawing directly onto the wall, I wanted to directly influence the space which surrounded me. Much like Sol Lewitts art the architecture becomes part of the work acting as the canvas of the drawings.  I decided I needed to push myself, I wanted to increase the scale of previous wall drawings and so I decided to draw across an entire wall the edges acting as the frame/restrictions. I chose to draw upon a wall with a doorway in the middle, this would act as an entrance between two spaces meaning the viewer would be forced to interact with the work. Furthermore, the drawing would have more movement as it flowed over the doorway. I decided to add another element to my drawing by documenting it through film, it would record the entire process of the wall drawing and would help the viewers understand what goes into the process of the drawing. After experimenting with other mediums I could potentially use to draw with, I decided to return to using pencil. A mundane material used in everyday circumstances, it would enable a connection between the viewer and the artwork as they would be able to relate to the use of the pencil. However, I would be using it in an extreme way by constantly repeating the same mark, over and over to build up layers of looping to create surface texture. Within these marks, movement would be created through changing the softness/hardness of the pencils accordingly to create a range of tonalities which gives the drawing movement which has been said to look like a landscape – this is unintentional. Midway through my drawing I hit the ‘writers block’ but the artistic form, I became restless and lacked any enthusiasm for my drawing. I felt I needed to release my frustration, this was achieved by scrunching up an old drawing of mine playing with the concept of frustration, for example when someone is unhappy with something they have drawn or written they screw it up. This created another three dimensional drawing, the creases in the paper adding volume and abstract shapes to the drawing. This sculpture inspired me to continue drawing and get it completed so that I could see all the drawing objects together. The more time I spent drawing I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to reach over the doorway, it would be too unsafe on a ladder and so I decided to complete the drawing just below the doorway. This would also enable me to start the other-side of the wall as I was running out of time before the Christmas holidays. After 35 hours I finally completed the drawing. Overall I am really pleased with the final result, the drawing is tall enough to tower over most viewers surrounding them with drawing which they can immerse themselves into. For next semester I would like to continue working within my studio area adding more and more drawing to make a drawing installation.DSC03273 DSC03278 DSC03284 DSC03285 - Copy DSC03289 - Copy DSC03293 DSC03295 DSC03297 DSC03748 DSC03749 DSC03754 DSC03776 DSC03777DSC03784

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Paris study trip

It felt really good to finally get out of Loughborough, after spending over a month restricted to the same place I felt like it was just what I needed to do to gain some space/distance and perspective from my work. It would enable me to come back to it a week later with fresh eyes and loaded with inspiration absorbed from Paris.

I feel looking back with hindsight that even if I hadn’t managed to see any exhibitions or art work that I would have been inspired by the beautiful architecture. I decided to walk the majority of the way around Paris instead of catching the tube, this enabled me to see far more of the urban surroundings. I was inspired by the romance and decadence of the architecture,  the attention to detail through elaborate embellishment was breath taking, an art in itself. The formality of the landscape added to this romance through the endless avenues of trees lining the river, this structure is something that is unique to French landscape.

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Not only was I inspired by the Parisian architecture, I was also inspired by the artwork and exhibitions I visited. The first museum I visited was Palais de Tokyo, this museum contained a range of contemporary artists whom all used materials in unique ways. For example the first artwork you see as you walk through the entrance is a sculpture by Numen/For use which hangs above the viewers, made out of a stretchy translucent plastic which looked like cling film was stretched between points much like a spiders web. However much to my astonishment the hanging 3D structure could be experienced by the viewers who were allowed to enter the sculpture!

One key work of art that I found truly inspirational was the work by Marc Couturier whereby a whole room was filled with drawing. Using a similar process to me where there is a flow to the drawing where the pencil doesn’t leave the surface of the wall.

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Drawing sculpture

Upon moving into my studio space I discovered a plinth which had been left from the previous year, at first I thought nothing of it and began using it as a surface to shelve my materials. Then, when brainstorming ideas I was thinking about the idea of attempting to make my drawings more three dimensional. I realised that I could use the plinth as the surface of which my drawings could grow on, the structure of the plinth would really change the format of my drawing.  Below is a picture showing the original state of the plinth, I simple had to sand it down as there was a roughness to the surface of the paint which would distort the linear line of the pencil.

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Initially I had no solid plans for the plinth, in my mind I had previously planned to completely cover the object in drawing so that the plinth would become a solid mass of drawing, however when I started to draw onto the surface of the plinth I realised an alternative idea which would enable the drawing to explore the structure of the object. This was to let the drawing flow freely around the plinth in a spiralling motion gradually climbing up the sides until finally reaching the top of the structure. The image below shows my personal interaction with the object and gives a sense of scale.

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In the picture below you can see how the pattern is developing on the side of the plinth, there is already a clear contrast between the white areas and the textured area of pencil. By leaving areas of the plinth white it gives the object freedom for future possibilities to fully cover the plinth in drawing, this is an opportunity which can be developed later in the project if I decide to do so.

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I decided to blend the pattern around the edges of the plinth so that it would stay in one fluid form rather within the separate panels of the plinth. This was really successful and gave the effect that the drawing was a continuous flowing form around the three dimensional object.

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I think the finished piece is really successful, in the sense that I have changed the format of my drawing which was originally flat. Whereas now the drawing has become a three dimensional object which grows around the exterior of the plinth. Whilst drawing onto the plinth I gained further inspiration to continue the pattern onto the table the plinth was sitting on, this would give the effect that the drawing was spreading and growing on the surfaces of the everyday items and objects within the space of the studio. Furthermore, this approach can also be used with other shapes such a cube therefore there is room for development within drawing sculptures. These ideas will be documented within my sketchbook.

 

Blind drawing

I wanted to start my project by going through some experimental ideas which will help the initial fear of the blankness of the white page. I wanted to get into the repetitive routine and rhythm so that I could get my project up and running. I thought about doing some blind drawings, which the name already suggests (drawing without sight or vision). This I thought would be an interesting concept, as my previous drawings had all been completed with the aid of my vision therefore it seemed I was drawing what I thought was aesthetically pleasing. Instead I wanted to be become more sensually aware of the movement across the surface of the paper, and become more aware of my emotions and feelings. I sensed that in my first drawings that I wasn’t relaxing and immersing myself into the drawing, and so, I ensured I relaxed by breathing in through my nose and out again this enabled my muscles to relax which changed the shape of the gestures.

I experimented in various ways to see how the effect and depth changed, this involved experimenting with different hardnesses of pencils and using multiple pencils at the same time.

I decided to listen to music through my headphones, this enables me to fully disconnect from the background noise of the studios and immerse myself into the drawing. Furthermore, the lyrics within the music express thoughts and emotions which I can relate to. With each song I completed a different drawing to show how the music has effected my emotions through the use of gesture.

I feel although these drawings appear to be successful that they are not relevant to my practice whereby I use the limitations of a pattern or rectangle to encase the drawing, whereas here the drawing flows freely on the page. Drawing blind was a new experience for me, it felt really disorientating as I was navigating my way around the page with the pencil. I became more aware of my own physical presence within the space the darkness made my body feel heavy, this gave me a dizzy sensation which added to my disorientation.

I do not plan to continue blind drawing within my project, this was just an experiment to see how I can explore and manipulate my senses and attempting to focus on my emotions through extreme concentration.

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