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.

Some ‘graphic’ art

No I don’t mean anything rude by that. Graphic art is ‘a term applied historically to the art of printmaking and drawing’ (according to Wikipedia). Basically, it’s posters and prints, often used for things like gig posters, display ads and promo flyers.  The reason for my sudden interest in it? I went to a rather good graphic art fair last weekend called ‘Pick Me Up’. I browsed the prints and posters (some a bit generic but mostly top quality), watched artists at work and fantasised about which ones I’d buy if I spent money on art instead of shoes (which I don’t but I really should. A much better investment). This quirky little fair was only on for a week so for those of you who missed it here are some highlights:

1) Erin Petson: I love her sketchy, messy but delicate style. Gorgeous. It says on her website she’s done work for Vogue. I’d love to see more of that kind of thing in mainstream fashion media. (See previous blog post!)

2) Everything is Everything: A video about objects. What happens (or doesn’t happen) when you touch, pick up, throw, put on, drop and jump on everyday things. Intermittently accompanied by some rancid-looking Chinese food. I can’t say any more about it except you should watch it because it is mindlessly hypnotic.

3) The humble art of screen printing: So easily ignored in the age of digital printing but really satisfying to watch the swiping of the paint and the building up of colours. It is still very much alive today at the likes of Print Club London where trendy East Londoners unite to seep paint onto paper.

4) Rob Ryan: Paper cutout artiste  extraordinaire breathes new life into the  humble paper chain and doily with amazingly intricate poster templates which are transposed onto all sorts of medium, including bags, books and mugs. Although as my housemate Jim said ‘It’s a bit girlie, isn’t it?’

5) Big Ideas (don’t get any) by James Houston: The most original Radiohead cover you’ll ever hear, Houston covers ‘Nude’ from In Rainbows using old school technology. What it is doing at a graphic art fair I’ve not idea but it is very clever stuff. I love seeing all that clunky technology put to good use!

May 2, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . art, fashion, London. Leave a comment.

Experiential London

I’ve been to a couple of social events recently that have been slightly out of the ordinary so I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer some thoughts on them.

Firstly, Shunt has been my Saturday night destination for the past two weeks running.  Both times it has been a bit disappointing. This is a performance arts venue in London Bridge station with live music and art exhibitions. The location is amazing – a labyrinth of tunnels and caverns with a unisex toilet, cinema (of sorts) and the odd tree (!) Previously they used to have DJs and pack the place out with a crowd happy to take in the randomness but safe in the knowledge they they’d have a good dance and feel suitably merry. Now it has reopened they seem to have removed the DJ from the equation and, quite frankly, bopping along to an acoustic performance, doesn’t quite cut the mustard for a Saturday night out in London. That said, it is worth at least one visit. But get there early or book in advance.

So moving on to a more successful recent soiree, with equally unusual credentials: I recently attended one of the Science Museum ‘Lates’. This is a free adult only night and the one I went to was all about the science of music (not sure if they change the theme each month). Here I discovered that ukulele karaoke + breakdancing demonstration + silent disco = a winning combination. Plus you could play with all the interactive exhibitions which are usually reserved for kiddies. (There’s something very satisfying about seeing grown ups at play.) As an added element of randomness, the world’s first pregnant man also made an appearance… All in all a very fun and FREE evening.

The conclusion I’d draw from these recent excursions is that when organisers are trying to do something different it is still important to keep fun at the heart of their idea. I do think that some of the fun has gone out of Shunt and I won’t be returning until I can be guaranteed a good dance, a laugh, an upbeat atmosphere or ukulele karaoke. Any of these would be more fitting for such an awesome venue than the gloomy atmosphere that seems to reign at present.

February 28, 2010. Tags: , . London, nights out. Leave a comment.