Da Vinci 'A life in drawing'

Manchester Art Gallery,

1 Feb 2019 - 6th May 2019)


For a brief time at Manchester art gallery, the touring exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches are showing a behind the scenes look of his work, and personal insight into his interests, studies and humor.

The room is crowded with fellow visitors, a dimmed space to protect the delicate pages. There is a light buzz about the accessibility of seeing the revered artist in person. Presenting a range of his sketches created with pen, ink, watercolour and chalk, these delicate pieces show articulate sketches exploring fetus development, the ideal human proportion and other sketch studies.

Three pieces particularly captured my attention -

‘Two grotesque profile’ 1485-90 (pen and ink wash)- a satirical look at human proportion. From studying the idea mathematical formula of beauty Da Vinci could distort this to create ‘ideal ugliness’ the composition parody’s the typical 15 century couple portraits that were being painted at the time. For me, this sketch presents a side of his humor and satirical abilities, not having a large awareness of his private life, little highlights can be found.

‘ A woman in the landscape’ 1517-18 (Black chalk)

Being his most mysterious drawing for its lack of origin, the most plausible concept for this piece however is that its based of Dante’s ‘The Divine comedy’. In this sketch it would present us in Dantes position as Matelda indicates her earthly paradise to us. Drawing me in is that this sketch is different compared to the other sketches on show. This is more in the aesthetic of his famed painting. There is movement and a dream like quality. The chalk adds texture while highlighting enough details in her face.

‘ Studies of men in action’ 1508 (Black chalk, pen and ink)

This is one of a sequence of thumbnails attempting to capture every action of man, according to Da Vinci there is 18.
This piece from the exhibit is my favorite. Different in composition and unique in subject. The small men look like cartoons from a 90s football annual. There is a lot of negative space at the top, subjects are cramped into the footer.

Overall the exhibit is beautifully curated, has a good selection of sketches, from sketchbook work including his infamous backward writing, and individual studies of a range of subjects. I suggest going at an off peak time to have more space and intimacy with the artwork instead of fellow visitors. From being a tight space it can get heated and end up queuing to view pieces, adding a sense of guilt at your concentration of a sketch, making you move along.


William Kentridge 'Thick Time'

Manchester Whitworth gallery,

(21st Sept 2018 - 3rd March Feb 2019)

Thick Time

William Kentridge is a collaborative artist working across many art forms, from moving image, installation and collage. ‘Thick time’ explores themes concerning the human condition, reflecting on his home town of Johannesburg. Concentrating on ‘The Tapestry Library’ Kentridge collaborated with weavers from his hometown to transform his paper collages into hand woven tapestries.

It is this project in particular that interested and effected me the most. These large handwoven tapestries dominated the space, and presented a way to further enhance a project, transcending 2D. Being a collage based artist myself, seeing these large re-productions of paper collages brought an awareness of other avenues of paper creations.

Walking around the space there is a sense of gravitas to these tapestries, they enclose the room, dominating your attention. You walk to different positions for a range of perspectives, and get up close trying to understand better how this traditional method of textiles has managed to effectively capture a once paper production. The mohair spun and dyed in Swaziland perfectly captures the layers, textures, text and gravitas of Kentridges work.

These tapestries opened up a whole new avenue for my work, and infused my passions with new life. ‘Thick time’ captured the essence of why I collage, yet presented it in a way that wasn’t a natural conclusion for my own practice, broadening my outcomes and projects, its refreshed my pallet.

Sketchbooking

The second half of the year has flown by, there is no excuse for why I have not posted anything for a while, other then sheer laziness. In July I began my own monthly magazine, have exhibited in London and finished a new project. Plenty to have spoke about but ill update you on them more later!

I wanted to talk about sketchbooking in this post, for I, am useless at it. I see the spine, or the metal binding and my brain cross-wires, I become ridged with my creations and freedom. Everything get clustered centrally, and my expressive nature lost. Sketchbooking is something that I am having to work on daily, whether it be looking at the type of pens I enjoy to work with, how I collage in a contained space and using different methods, such as types of glue ect…
From this nature and utter fright over a sketchbook, I began to stitch pages together and glue in left over pieces of collages/ scraps I had around. These were less thought over, and initially just a way of having less waste. I really enjoyed taking the time of stitching the pages, and having an element that was full of life as an end piece. I began to re-connect with different space sizes and stated to add type in them from my journals, give the books a bigger meaning, a reason to have been created. From these initial pieces, I have now a slight obsession over collecting things I wouldn’t have usually, such as envelope people have sent to me when they have beautifully wrote my name or illustrated, papers collected at places of interest, tickets and maps, anything that could look interesting cut down to size and saddle stitched together. These small A6 books have to greater purpose other than being a visual collection of my thoughts and trips, but just being surrounded by them and having the ability to now express myself in another manner is incredibly freeing. They are also things I can quickly grab and chuck in my bag for an on the go sketchbook, for a person that likes to sporadically decide to venture somewhere, a sketchbook is never on the agenda, but these can be manipulated very easily from there small size. I can do rubbings, write in them, insert more pages, stick things in I have collected from the day, sketch…. endless options.
The moral is, there is always other ways of working if one way doesn’t fit you! - such an obvious sentiment, but one I feel we all forget at some point or another. we are conditioned to go to the natural cause of things, and sketchbooks are one of these for a creator. But in essence a sketchbook is anything you want it to be, not just something you have to buy from a shop.

Below are a small selection of these books