What’s in a Sketch?

I am ashamed to say I fall into the category of those who can’t really appreciate a lot of old art – frescos and religious paintings have never really been my bag. Old drawings, however, are another matter all together. The exhibition of Italian Renaissance Drawings at the British Museum is really something special. The blurb explains that drawing only became popular in the 1400s when paper started to be more widely available. Sketching was seen principally as a way for artists to hone their skills and create studies for larger scale paintings. But, as the exhibition shows, drawings are often more playful, delicate and charismatic than paintings of the same time. Seeing every tiny mark, you get a much better understanding of the skill and study that has gone into them, even the mistakes and corrections are interesting.

For this reason, I think it is easy to feel a stronger connection with them and to really understand how remarkable it is that these delicate, incredibly skillful drawings are staring you right in the face. In 1400, a bloke called Giovannino de’Grassi sat down to draw a cheetah, for instance, and here I am looking at it now. Mind-boggling:

And it isn’t just really old sketches that get me excited – any work from any era where you can see the skill and technique used to create it will usually interest me more than a ‘finished’ perfect painting. For instance, I prefer Degas’ ballerina sketches to his paintings:

Egon Schiele’s sketches, disturbing as they can be, are also very appealing to me:

The wartime artist John Piper’s work often had a sketchlike quality to it that I absolutely love:

So there we have it. A small insight into a beautiful exhibition and a few examples of other sketches I love. Now all I have to do is start doing more of my own sketches. And who knows, maybe someone in the year 3000 will marvel at one of my own doodles…

June 20, 2010. Tags: , , . art, galleries, London, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Chris Ofili…Beyond the Dung

So moving swiftly on from self help books because my sister reckons I sound like a fruit loop… I went to the Chris Ofili exhibition at the Tate Britain with my friend Shenel on Sunday and saw some beautiful, energised paintings. Energised might seem like a strange choice of word but for me it seems like the most appropriate one. Its hard to describe but his paintings were so vibrant and “buzzy” that they sort of pulse off the paper and dazzle you. This guy has no qualms in getting messy with glitter, glue, resin and even elephant dung. Kind of reminded me of being 5 and just playing with pretty colours and sparkly things. (He is, of course, a lot better at this than your average 5 year old.)

The best bit was a beautifully designed wooden room where Ofili’s series of monkey god paintings hang. Each in a different vibrant colour: lime green, neon orange, rose pink and violet – that makes it sound a bit like a Dulex colour chart on acid but I promise you it was far from this. At the end of the room is the big monkey god glittering in gold with a rainbow background. (Jeez, I’m making this sound cheap and tacky but it is clearly the draftsmanship, sensitivity and power behind the work that is impressive. As well as the pretty colours.)

In the monkey room, Ofili said he was trying to create the effect of a temple but without the religious implications and the room did have a spiritual feel to it, probably due to the fact that visitors are in awe of the artworks. Who would of thought that colours+monkeys+wooden panels = mesmorising, soothing and inspiring place… Shenel and I struggled to drag ourselves away because we felt so drawn to the room.

One of the other highlights was seeing some humorous pencil sketches – many of them made up of nothing but miniature faces with big afros which, in a dot-to-dot fashion, mark out a larger image, usually of an attractive woman. This room also had some small, beautiful water colours in it of birds and faces – black background with rainbow colours marking the image. Apparently he does these little paintings in the morning and the evening as a way of freeing his mind. I had a go at one myself and found it a pleasing and soothing experience. Result below.

So in short I loved it (even the dung) and you should go too if you get the chance. Hats off to Mr Ofili and here’s an example of what he does best to finish.

February 21, 2010. Tags: , , , . art, galleries, my artwork. 1 comment.