This particular Exhibition explored the relationship between drawing and sculpture and how the two art forms work together. It was curated by Caroline Worthington, Director of the Royal Society of Sculptors and brought together ten modern British sculptures from The Ingram Collection, http://ingramcollection.com/about/ alongside nearly eighty drawings by members of the Society. Caroline Wright selected the sculptures and then asked members of the Royal Society of Sculptors (by their weekly e-newsletter) to submit work they had made in response. In an interview, Caroline Worthington explained that nearly all the sculptors she knew draw either for pleasure or to problem-solve in relation to their sculptural practice but these drawings are rarely shown.
There was also a twin exhibition Parallel Lines: Sculpture and Drawing at Dora House in South Kensington, where Caroline Wright chose drawings by sculptors in The Ingram Collection and paired them with work drawings by contemporary sculptors. I’m sorry I missed that one because it would have been good to compare the two exhibitions in dialogue with each other as well as the dialogues within each exhibition.
I spent much longer at the Lightbox than I had anticipated because I was entranced to see how each artist had responded to one or more of the ten sculptures. I’m only going to write about responses to two of the sculptures in this post though, because these were the ones that particularly drew me towards them.
John Behan Ghost Boat (2003)
John Behan (b. 1938) is an Irish sculptor and painter from Dublin
My art is related to ancient culture as well as to modern technique. I feel that every artist, be they poet or writer or sculptor or painter, must have roots, roots that will tap into the ground. It’s not to say that you don’t live in the modern world – I use all the technology that I possibly can to express myself, I am very aware of what’s going on in terms of technical innovation – but in terms of Irish art, we have had a gap between the Middle Ages and the 20th Century when no visual art was produced. So I had to go back: the future was in the past, if you like.
Some of his sculptures relate to the Irish famine of 1846 to 1849 while referencing the universality of life, death and their stages. There are also bulls and playful goats. He looks at dancing, music, how it travels with people as they journey.
(Web image search screengrab)
I don’t remember seeing Behan’s work before and I was really struck by the Ghost Boat. It looks fragile and yet ageless; reminding me of all those people who have travelled the seas exploring, searching for a safe home, new adventures or fleeing persecution.
(Ghost Boat, 2003)
On her website Clare Burnett describes how the greyish colour of the ghost ship made her feel like working in reds and pinks. Her mixed-media installation creates both a dialogue between the shapes within and also with Behan’s sculpture. I can understand her use of red in her responses Red can represent power, courage, blood, violence. It’s a colour full of energy, whereas grey is often associated with loss or depression and, of course a phantom or ghost.
Alexandra Harley above (left top and bottom)
Behan’s Ghost I (2019) Rust on paper
Behan’s Ghost II (2019) Tippex and Graphite on paper
I was interested that Harley drew the same shape for both drawings, but also used the redness of rust as a contast with the graphite – almost like a positive and negative.
Sphalerite (2019) Collage on cardboard (upper right)
The collage is shown on his website but I couldn’t find any explanation of it. I can understand the pale green oars, perhaps reminiscent of seawood or algae stemming from the density of what looks to be chunks of ore arranged in a boat shpae. Sphalerite is a zinc ore and its name pertains to the Greek word that means treacherous, which is strange because it’s used in crystal healing for grounding, energizing and harmonizing the male and female aspects of the personality. The collage, to me, has the look of something organic that’s going to get up and walk somewhere on its six legs and I’m beginning to wonder if the ‘oar’ legs can support the heavy ‘boat’. The more I look, though, the more it starts to remind me of a jellyfish with tentacles – the venomous box jellyfish.
On another website lascalis explains, ‘I look at primordial artifacts, games and toys, altering their mechanization and form to question their practicality or shift their purpose. In doing so I have grown increasingly concerned with themes of impermanence and uncertainty in everyday life, which I address through performance.
Shifts and Contrivances XV (2019) pencil on paper (lower right)
Janne Malmros appears to have created several works under a collective title of Shifts and Contrivances . The title was taken from the book ‘The Art of Travel Shifts and Contrivances in Wild Countries’ by the English polymath Francis Galton FRS (1822-1911). The book gives good advice on how to survive in the wild and it includes a diagram showing how to construct a simple boat – which shape is used in Malmros’s series. I found that really interesting because it’s a simple shape (I’ve made paper boats too in the past) and yet so much can be done with it as can be seen from the page on her website. She has strong interests in botany, entomology, geometry, history, folklore and pattern and employs a range of media, techniques and materials in her work.
Her pencil drawing in response to Behan creates almost a 3D boat with layers of its grey shadow and then the ‘unfolded’ boat as a base.
Nicola Anthony, ‘… sees the world as a series of interconnected subject matters, fragile moments and stuff from which new things can be made’. She uses glass, paper and found objects in her drawings and sculptures. Her response to Ghost Boat was a work entitled Saving our Souls (2019) – “about helping those in trouble, the journeys we make to get to a ‘New World’, and the dichotomy of becoming either caught or saved. Anthony used layers of incense burned paper to create a three-dimensional drawing, reminiscent of a fishing net, that which can catch or let through back into the sea– see the video which looks behind the scenes at its creation here
Anthony also responded to the work of another sculptor, Michael Ayrton – see below
Michael Ayrton (1921-1975)
Maze Music (1972)
Michael Ayrton was an English artist and writer, renowned as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designed and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. His artistic output reveals an obsession with flight, myths, mirrors and mazes. The concept of the Maze, its maker and occupants preoccupied him for over ten years. Daedalus (mythic creator of the labyrinth on Crete in which the Minotaur was kept) was the starting point for the series called Maze Makers and Maze Figures and Maze Music evolved from an earlier sculpture, ‘Maze Player’ (1965) in which the maze is transformed into a musical instrument.
Maze Fragment (2019)
An incense burned drawing on paper. The use of the embroidery hoop as a frame is very effective, holding the flowing ‘fragment’ tightly; it pulled me in to see if I could see a pathway through the maze.
I was entranced by the Exhibition and the ‘dance’ between the sculptures and the drawings, firstly because I am still committed to learning to draw and then because I am interested in collaborative working alongside call and response. I’m hoping that, if I proceed on to Level 3, I’ll be able to incorporate some mixed-media work somehow; until then I’ll keep on practising.