'People on Paper' highlights the importance of drawing today

Drawing has remained the backbone of any artist’s skillset since the dawn of man. It’s easy to pick up a pencil as a child and scribble, draw random doodles in the sides of a school notebook to a form of creative exploration by a team of advertising creatives.

Drawing is a fundamental tool for expressing the world we live in whether to record, document or analyse. It’s a vital way to realise visual ideas and communicate beyond language barriers.

It’s this overarching principle that brings a sense of power and poignancy to the Abbot Hall’s latest exhibition from the Arts Council titled ‘People on Paper’. Centrally focused on drawing it brings together many of the greatest British artists of the 20th and 21st centuries including Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Barbara Hepworth and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Each room is grouped by seated position, self-portraits, multiple figures, mother and child, imagined and the human figure. It shows a dynamic range of techniques and approaches made by the artists in the show. In the first room alone, groupings of heads, vary from L.S. Lowry’s ‘Woman with Long Hair’ 1964, Richard Hamilton's free spirited ‘Swingeing London’ 1967 to Antony Gormley’s ‘Art’ 1981. The latter is my stand-out choice (pictured below). Not quite your average self-portrait using hammers and chisels the 3d figure creates a keyhole shape testing the edges with a sense of purpose. Underlining his other series of works forming life-size metal figures of himself.

Other highlights are the groupings of imagined drawings including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s ‘Study for Anaconda’ 2005 to the grouped figures by Barbara Hepworth. Showing one of her hospital drawings ‘Reconstruction’ 1947 it depicts a group of surgeons in the operating room. Henry Moore’s ‘Women Winding Wool’ 1948 is a sublime drawing of his time studying people during the World War.

The grouping of the body and human figure is another great range of drawings. The intense, dark charcoal marks made by Frank Auerback in ‘Nude on Her Back’ 1954 to the fine close-up studies by Jane Dickson in ‘Torso Dyptich’ 1997. The exhibition follows with a collaged photograph and watercolour drawing by Michael Landy and an abstract piece from Wyndham Lewis in ‘Two Women’ 1912.

The final highlight of the exhibition was the only drawing/sculpture in the show (a shame really as the field of drawing has been expanded on massively these days) by artist Kate Davis. ‘Partners Study’ 2005 features a combined paper and ceramic ‘drawing’ of a phone and its cable.

It must have been a hard job by the Arts Council curator, Ann Jones, to select from their bank of over 8000 works, including 1000 drawings. Some of them purchased from the artist at a very young age. Its this special glimpse into their collection that shows how hugely exciting the field of drawing is and how each artist has a different way of conveying the world around them.

Barbara Hepworth

John Golding

Lucien Freud

Alasdair Gray

On until 17th December

Abbot Hall
Kendal, Cumbria

Please take note that your art may flourish from reading this blog :)


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