D rawing, in its traditional role as the activity from which the other arts of painting and sculpture develop, has often been confined to the shadows. This role is ambivalent in being both central and essential but also peripheral at the same time. The act of drawing begins the journey for a completed work of art and also maps the internal journey of the artist. Whether it is drawing from life, drawing from great masters or just drawing, the process leaves traces which illuminate and capture detail which may quietly exist in its own right or be a catalyst for another work. The process of trying to understand, to deconstruct, always involves both give and take. Drawing shamelessly ‘takes’ from the external through simple observation and interpretation but it also ‘takes’ from the internal by dipping into the deep pool of the subconscious.
For the artist, drawing is revelatory and an adventure and at its most rewarding displays you to yourself. It teases out ideas and uncovers the hidden or forgotten and, in turn, reveals the hand and mind of the artist to the viewer. There is an element of mystery to this largely private process. A visual and intellectual question is being asked and the artist is lost in the journey to finding an answer which may lie in the drawing itself, or beyond that, in a separate work of art. For the time that the journey takes, the artist inhabits a liminal zone, in suspension between the question and the answer. Completion of the drawing contains traces of the journey and an answer to the question.
The extraordinary works in this Master Works on Paper sale all bring their own questions and offer their own answers. We can follow the hand of the artist wrestling with the challenges of observational drawing or we can appreciate the analytical hand in the task of understanding, explaining and presenting. There are drawings which reveal a profound and knowing familiarity with a subject and those where the artist is on a journey of exploration in virgin territory. Both give us an insight into the artist’s visual thought processes. Common to all the drawings is the modesty of materials by which the artistic vision is captured. A simple pencil, ink or chalk line on paper proves itself equal to the task of carrying the weight of observation and exploration and, beyond that, the possibility of a grander future in another artistic form.
In some of the works the grander future as a painting, perhaps, is within touching distance but other works proudly capture the uncertainty, the indecision of the first draft of an idea. All the works demonstrate to a greater or lesser extent the conscious mental control of the artist in relation to the materials. How in control are they? How much control does the artist knowingly cede to the materials? What do they learn from the serendipitous interaction between materials and do they exploit it or wrestle it into submission? Every work tells its own story of the mind and intention of the artist and its meeting with the material world through the act of drawing and captures, for the viewer, that unique interaction, a moment of revelation.