Friday, 15 April 2011

Drawing Symposium - The Uses of Drawing

Oriel Myrddin Gallery held a Drawing Symposium - The Uses of Drawing - last Saturday as part of the participatory events inspired by The Jerwood Drawing Prize which is showing at the gallery (it closes this Saturday, if you haven't been yet!). In keeping with the ethos of the prize which aims to "...provide a forum to test, evaluate and disseminate current drawing practice, and to gain knowledge and understanding about the field through the artists currently making work within the discipline." we invited speakers from a range of disciplines to a day-long discussion on the uses of drawing bringing together multi-disciplinary approaches to the uses, relevance, benefits and value of drawing as a creative solution and technical discipline.

The day was chaired by Carmarthenshire artist, lecturer and writer, Osi Rhys Osmond, ever charismatic and provocative, Osi was a natural choice to bring the best out of our speakers and our audience. The speakers included: 

Roger Moss,  Sculptor - "Let there be drawing (apologies to Epstein)."

Marilyn Allen, Artist - "Drawing in Contemporary Practice."

Dr Wayne Forster,  Deputy Head of Welsh School of Architecture - "Architecture and the Thinking Hand."

Sally Moss, Curator - "Drawing and the Athens of Wales" The history of drawing at Oriel Myrddin Gallery.

Julia Griffiths Jones, Artist/maker - "Drawing out the Collection" -  Working with the National Wool Museum Collection.

Ken Brassil, Archaeology Learning Officer National Museum of Wales - "Timeline: archaeology maps the past."

It was a brilliantly sunny day, so we felt very encouraged that over 40 people packed the gallery space for the day forgoing the beach or the deckchair. We sat amongst The Jerwood Drawing Prize works which gave a fantastic context to the proceedings. The speakers ranged over diverse territory.

Roger Moss talked about the sculptor's process, the way that the drawing materials themselves often bring a materiality and substance to sketching. He discussed the freedom and fluidity the sketching process could bring, comparing at one point a Rodin experiment in stone to the work of Eduardo Paolotzzi and reminding us that nothing is new under the sun. He related some lovely personal stories including sitting next to Claus Oldenburg at dinner and coveting the little explanatory sketch he made on the table cloth - British reserve saw the drawing scrunched into the bin at the end of the meal...much to the sadness of those eyeing up the opportunity to claim it.

Marilyn Allen, erstwhile lecturer in Contextual Studies at West Wales School of the Arts, talked in particular about how performance artists use the 'trace' of their performance - how can you sell a memory or a ghost? She used a wide range of references including Maryclare FoĆ”'s walk through Manhattan, Line Down Manhattan (2003),  dragging along a lump of English chalk, a conceptually succinct expression of the question. She also made reference to artists such as Rebecca Horn - especially her pencil mask, Bleistiftmaske (1972), and Tim Knowles Tree Drawings.

Dr Wayne Forster brought a really interesting dimension to proceedings, talking about the tripartite stages of drawing with which the architect typically engages; conceptual, developmental and finished. Each stage demands a very different approach through the very practical function of its language. Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor provided a lynch pin to the talk especially The Therme Vals in Switzerland. 

Curator, Sally Moss is an avid historian and has a vast knowledge of the town of Carmarthen and especially the building in which Oriel Myrddin Gallery is housed. Built as a dedicated art school and designed by architect George Morgan, it opened it's doors in 1892 and was built by public subscription. Sally reminded us that the funds to create this pioneering establishment were raised by the residents of the town, not just the culturally elite, but also ordinary working Carmarthen people. She read us inspiring and inspired sections from the speeches made in support of the art school, one of which set out its ambition for Carmarthen to be 'The Athens of Wales', a heartland of culture.

Julia Griffiths Jones, Carmarthenshire artist and maker, talked to us about her practice and the roots of her research in eastern europe. Taking inspiration from traditional textiles her work has developed a very distinctive style which incorporates 'drawing' in metal wire and textiles. In recent years Julia has worked closely with The National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre, creating a number of works which are now permanently housed in the museum.

Our last speaker of the day, Ken Brassil from The National Museum in Cardiff enlivened the final presentation with his highly unique speaking style. Inspired by the Tim Ingold book, Lines - A Brief History, he took us on an abstract journey of archaeology and the changing face of the technologies and techniques of gathering and recording information.

Invigorated by the day, one of our visitors told me how much she'd enjoyed the day, in fact it had made her feel rather moved - she had 'nearly cried six times'. I think this exemplifies the passion with which drawing and its functions are held. Summing up, Osi Rhys Osmond pleaded the case for drawing to be taken far more seriously as a language and communication tool, a key to the future.

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