From Life

We had the opening tonight of our exhibition which looks at the ways in which a very diverse group of artists make use of drawing in their work.   Many of them belong to the last generation who were required to undertake life drawing as part of their training and, for good reasons, rejected it, regarding it, as Jon Thompson described it, as ‘an ideologically loaded tool for making students conform to a certain philosophy of art’ or, as Antony Gormley describes it, ‘At art school, I had a really uncomfortable feeling that we were ignoring the main subject, which was the sensation of living.   The Life Room was denying the most interesting thing’.   But it feels as if it has never completely gone away.   Lucian Freud used drawing as the basis for his paintings.   Hockney has gone on drawing against the tide.   Michael Landy retreated to drawing weeds after destroying all his possessions and drew his penis after one of its testicles had been removed.   The question which hovers over the exhibition and the accompanying book is exactly what the status of drawing is nowadays in the process of looking at, recording and documenting the physical world.   What’s its currency ?  Has it been, and can it be, replaced by new tools for looking ?   Bridget Riley puts it best:  ‘I think – and there is evidence enough from other artists – that this kind of discipline is useful even when you are not actually drawing.   It creates a kind of thinking that feeds right through into picture-making.   It lays an intellectual foundation’.

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