In an age in which artists can legitimately do anything, it frequently occurs to me that it is the work that has to be made, that which is born of obsession and compulsion that has the most lasting value. The hypothesis, tested by this show, is that there is something about drawing, the original means of expression, that naturally aligns itself with this need to do and make things a certain way, and that as such, drawing has become a particularly apt medium for our times.
In what is undoubtedly an increasingly plural art world there has nonetheless, in recent years, been a marked resurgence of interest in drawing as a medium for serious consideration. The revival of fortunes for this most ancient, direct and inclusive means of artistic expression has, perhaps surprisingly, grown out of a context in the 1990s in which art became for many observers analogous with big business. The prevailing taste seemed to be for big, slick, mechanised output and the production of artworks was routinely outsourced to third parties and teams of assistants.
A subsequent generation of artists have sought to re-connect with the act of making, to embrace and value the visceral, tactile and hand-made properties of the artwork. This direct (re-) engagement of the artist with their materials is at its most humble, pared-down and fundamental in the arena of drawing. If the re-appraisal of the potential of drawing was in part a rejection of the disengaged, de-personalised ‘business-model’ of artistic practice that preceded it; it makes sense that much of the drawing work to follow has been highly personal and singular in nature, exemplified by meticulous attention to detail and labour-intensive mark-making. This is the artist as maker in the purest possible sense.
This exhibition is necessarily a presentation of artistic practices that already exist, rather than a theme to which people have responded. This is not an attitude that can be adopted with any sincerity for the occasion, but a genuine way of being. I think everyone in this show would be making their work ‘in any case’, regardless of the vagaries of the art market. As such these are fellow artists whom I recognise as the real-deal, who make-work because they feel compelled to do so. This can manifest itself in a need to produce per se, or in rigid adherence to a pre-defined system of production. In the former instance drawing provides the most direct way to fulfil an ever-present urge to create.