How many exhibitions have there been recently that have been devoted purely to drawing? Not many. Perhaps not any. I can recall two. They are thin on the ground and the reason they are is the old conundrum called hegemony. Drawing is ever the bridesmaid. Painting takes precedence. It’s just how it is on this bitch of an earth, as one of the characters from Waiting for Godot, deliciously puts it.
But we can now add to the above paltry figure because the Casbah gallery in Hamilton has just put on a show that exclusively deals in drawing. Called Friend of Friends of Friends, (March 6 – March 21) it exhibited the work of six different artists all proficient in ink on paper, together with other assorted mediums that included acrylic, shoe polish, nail polish and screen print.
Priscilla McIntosh’s work consisted of three drawings – figures from the 80’s Punk band, The Minute Men: Mike Watt, D. Boon and George Hurley. They were small works on paper with a touch of acrylic paint to provide the pieces with an old print look. Perfectly executed.
Joseph Scott did collage, text and cartoonish drawings to make social and political comment complete with the use of a slacker art touch in the form of masking tape.
Alex John produced a series of vignettes in ink with a pop art feel, beautifully rendered. There was an Andy Warholish Watties Bake Bean can in black ink, a weightlifter, porn star, several band members from the Wizz-Kids and others. But the piece de resistance had to be a complete departure from drawing by John in the form of an ex medical mannequin dressed as a homeless person slumped down and lying on the floor beneath the drawings, against which rested a torn piece of cardboard with the words, HOMELESS HUNGRY ANYTHING HELPS, painted on it. Shades of Duane Hanson. One could read it as pure political or alternatively a slightly political cry for help from artists that go unrecognized and are overlooked.
Hannah Grocott’s images of blondes from the 50’s, taken from old magazines, had a nice cropped aspect and presented a range of emotions from the cheesy forced smile to the pensive then puzzled look. One of the works used nail polish as a colour agent: a clever touch. Her blue nudes came with the ironic title of Greyhound Longhaul.
Ben Clancy moved into slightly sinister territory with images that referenced the Waikato River, one of which included the picture of a drowned body floating head down in the water. It was based on something the artist himself actually encountered, discovering the dead person himself. This disturbing element was continued with the inclusion of five different faces of serial killers, each rendered with just the right amount of dark shading to convey a sense of the creepy.
To complete the show, Abee Jensen created a viewing platform, or at least a peep-hole box, covered in embossed wallpaper whose pattern nicely mimicked that of expressionist brushstrokes. Through the hole one observed, voyeuristically, an image of a woman undressing. Guiltily one quickly turned away.
Altogether this collection of works that traversed many subjects, disturbing, funny, ironic and poignant by turns, involved a range of adroit skills both technical and cerebral. Well worth the look.