Drawing from the past – British Museum

How it feels when one gets into the sanctuary  the British Museum, the drawing and print room on the 4th floor, behind doors, accessible only by appointment, with a collection of around 2.5 Mio items.

Drawing is research,

Drawing is thinking,

Drawing is seeking,

Drawing is exploring.

We were guided by the British Museum Project Officer for the Bridget Riley Art Foundation Sarah Jaffray. She mentioned how Bridget Riley found the collection during her time at Goldsmith tremendously helpful in material experiemtation. She selected a few drawings and prints from a wide range of period incl a limited of 10 book of loose sheets of etchings by Henry Moore (some of his later works) that showed how Moore was discovering and responding to an elephant skull through drawing, with a variety of line markings.

I used the hairline fineness of line to suggest space and mystery – Henry Moore

She also showed drawings from Michelangelo himself and from an unknown artist ‘after Michelangelo’, copying his ‘style’. Interesting to hear about the term ‚pentiment‘ (from Italian pentimento, or english ‘to repent / to regret’): the visible trace of the artist‘s search through drawing, an evidence, an index. Absent when someone is copying a work (as the line would be more intentional, conscious, less searching). I  guess that what at assessment would be rather looked at.

At the early times of paper, paper was precious, making artist to use both sides of a sheet (recto and verso). Also to use any sheet to the very limits, making e.g. Michelangelo to add (to collage) another piece of paper to a pre-drawn one that was not large enough, the drawing extends and crosses the edges of paper in that case (see 1860,0616.2.3)

The second part of the visit was drawing and be inspired by the selected works. Here, my drawings that were informed by more than the maker of the drawing. Why am I reluctant ‘just’ to copy things? Always want to have my own twist on it. Not sure, if this supports or restricts my learning.

After Michelangelo / informed by Moore’s line approach i

Looked at: no. 1998,0214.6

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After 'unknown after Michelangelo'

 

=> trying to apply the drawing ‚technique‘ of Henry Moore from his limited etching book. 

After Deacon / informed by my MRI project

Looked at: no 2006,0930.9

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Richard Deacon

After Dürer / gestural response

Looked at: no. SL,5218.29

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Albrecht Dürer

 

Thanks to Joanne and the rest of the group for getting together, and also to spend some time afterwards to reflect and talk.

I went back in the afternoon to look at the current exhibition “Rembrandt – thinking on paper” ( a marvellous title) and “The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard artists’ postcards from 1960 to now“. The first one showing Rembrandt quite experimental approach to etching with a back and force approach  by adding and amending the plates (see featured image), the second showing the way smaller pieces can act as artwork, as a series, a collection, or an archive. Reminding me also of the small ‘paper slides’ we used at the SLBI for microscoping plant species. And also the use of text is more pronounced in artist cards that e.g. in paintings.

Reflection

  • Overall, it was a short but excellent time and place to be, to connect to, and to response. The fact that one sees physical works made by the maker in its final and tactile stage is certainly impacting how I approach things. I don’t feel so inspired to draw for a longer time after a screen image. Compared to online to book viewing it adds a certain aura that made me to slow down, to focus more, and to be more present.
  • It was fun just to draw and to respond, to take the time to play with different 
  • The versatility and diversity of drawn ideas and things through pencil, chalk, etching, engraving, collaging is quite impressive, and it opens up more focused, close up explorations of material its that often doesn’t requires lot of space.
  • I find it a good to have study visits to study rooms as this one. As mentioned in my study weekend, it is the set of conditions that can propel creativity and visual research. 
  • Compared to the afternoon visit to the exhibition, I liked the intimacy and proximity in the study room.

 

 


Reference:

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2 Comments
  • May 1,2019 at 12:21 PM

    All Bryan Eccleshall’s copying / translation drawing got me to try it, and I did more than I ever expected to in the D2 course and am glad it’s now there in my study / research repertoire. But it took a good while for pennies to drop, and I’m guessing the significance would be different for each of us.

    • Stefan
      May 1,2019 at 8:31 PM

      I agree – I believe there is a subjective meaning to working from a drawing etc. Glad to hear you established a repertoire of yours.

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