Tuesday, 2 November 2010



The Jerwood Drawing Prize, sponsored by Parker Harris, is the largest and longest running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK, open to anyone resident or domiciled here. I first call in to see this year’s prize winners and shortlist too early, before the exhibition has been properly hung. Any excuse for visiting the Jerwood Space. I have a cup of tea. An empty cafe: 28 chic white chairs standing guard in groups of 4 round immaculate tables. It’s Friday at 3.30 – why isn’t everyone partying ready for the weekend? The floor is black, the counter is black. Only chrome glistens. My white cup of tea comes in an asymmetric saucer, which is a good device for making you notice it, as it easily spills. Outside on the terrace with its white floor, white chairs and white bunting, a solitary man is eating a pink ice cream. Pity he didn’t choose vanilla. 

2 ink pencil and charcoal on Arches Velin crème 65.8x.85.5

When I call back later  Northerly Migration  catches my attention. A small image cannot convey the subtlety of this beautiful drawing. What look like slightly powdery tadpoles at first glance are all travelling in the same direction to the top of the sheet of paper, Immediately there is a glimpse of a story - where did they come from and what happens when they get to the top? I find I care about these peaceful travellers, heading off in pairs or groups or making a solitary journey. Sometimes the line of the mesh shows through their bodies giving the little creatures an eerie transparency. And anyhow, they’re us really, aren’t they? 

What immediately springs to my mind is the 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi , with its haunting evocative score by Philip Glass. In the Hopi language the word Koyaanisqatsi means "crazy life, life out of balance, a state of life that calls for another way of living".  It was the first time I’d seen aerial views – which is what Davies’ drawing is – of multitudes of human beings,  speeded up, slow motion,  in cars, on escalators,  Like the drawing, the film is speech-less.Godfrey Reggio, the Director, justifies the lack of dialogue:  ‘it's not for lack of love of the language that (this) film has no words. It's because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation’. 

This drawing has a calm, mesmerising and thought-provoking quality, as well as reminding us that drawing is still alive and well doing what no other art form can manage.
 ‘I need to be as surprised by what I create as much as anyone else that may see it. It's that 'internal travel' experience of not knowing what's around the next corner that keeps me enthralled by the whole process of making art’.DAVID DAVIES

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