Drawing has often lurked underneath the paint, inside sketchbooks, behind the politics, in the back of a drawer. Covered over, private, undervalued, a barely visible trace of deep thought, plotting or instruction, it has always quietly discovered the new and charted contemplation. The tradition of drawing, be it a study for a painting or a map of the world, a record of a fleeting vision or a diagram of a grand machine, is fundamentally an exploration or search rather than finalised achievement.
In recent years artists’ Drawing has transcended this utilitarian practice to claim a bigger space for itself. The traditions of materials and processes are allowed to sing out loud in the hugely diverse, ambitious and experimental arena of contemporary Drawing.
In this scope for a substantial Drawing practice, where Drawing can reflect on the new world that it is inhabiting, I always enjoy Drawing that speaks to the nature of Drawing and celebrates its humble origins. That is one of the exciting things about bringing together the drawings of Luke Thurgate and Lisa Jones. These artists both celebrate the materiality of Drawing through their intensive processes at the same time as reflecting on the nature of Drawing itself through their subject matter. Their adept exploration of traditional materials is used to call forth the history of Drawing’s invisibility.
Both these artists, by making work about concealing, are making work about Drawing as much as with it. Jones’ delicately stratified works explore the surface of the urban ground as though it were a skin. While she went to Paris to investigate the underground catacombs and tunnels, she brought back tracings of the cracks in the roads and pavements. In this body of work she overlays these with maps of places that are important to her. The indexical marks of the ground are concealed in the dense ritual of repetition that becomes the outer membrane, which in turn, hides the surfaces and hint at the subterranean. In this tension between the surface and underground, rather than being covered over, Drawing is the reveal.
Thurgate, likewise shows us an apparent shell, the mask. Here, representations of textiles are used to reveal the hiddenness. Like an Xray of a painting that shows us the Drawing beneath the paint, Thurgate’s sensuous fabrics threaten to divulge the mysteries of the forms beneath them. The polished surfaces reveal not just a narrative of dangerous identity, but the absolute fragility of a human soul that is required to hide its truth.
Drawing’s function in the cannon of Western art has often been profound but, like the sediment in the Earth’s crust or the layered psychology of a human being, it hasn’t always been visible. In this exhibition the artists give Drawing the credit it deserves and take it to special levels of visibility as both artists make delicate and powerful surfaces that are deeply reverent to the secrets that might be beneath them.
Dr. Maryanne Coutts