15 Dec

By Lizzy Rose

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 was recently exhibited at Jerwood Space and is now on tour in venues across the UK. Having spent so much time in the company of the exhibition I wanted to write a blog entry that responded to it and to explore other current or recent UK drawing exhibitions that build up the landscape of contemporary drawing practice.

The Jerwood Drawing Prize is the country’s leading award in drawing, and is the largest and longest running annual open exhibition dedicated to drawing in the UK. For further information and details about where you can visit this exhibition, click here. Just under 3,000 entries were submitted for consideration by the distinguished panel of selectors: Charles Darwent, Art Critic, Independent on Sunday; Jenni Lomax, Director of Camden Arts Centre; and Emma Talbot, artist. The shortlist includes established artists as well as relative newcomers and students fresh from art school. The 72 works explore the scope of drawing ranging from the analytical to the poetic. Student Prize winner Warren Andrews’ naïve cardboard structure David M. Hutchinson Drawing Device No. 436 shares much of the values of drawing in its use of perspective and the continuation of line. The work is unassumingly placed on the floor; a broken little solar system of primitive shape and colour.


Image: Warren Andrews, David M. Hutchinson Drawing Device No. 436, 2010, Mixed media. Courtesy the artist

Betsy Dadd’s drawing titled From the train window expresses the rush of movement using a perfect economy of shape and line, pencil on paper.


Image: Betsy Dadd, From the train window, 2010, Graphite on paper. Courtesy the artist 

First Prize winner, Virginia Verran’s work Bolus-Space (signal) explores the layering of sounds and thought, her gently woven icons gently dripping through a circle of canvas. Drawing is clearly a diverse medium and there are many current exhibitions that seek to identify the parameters of drawing.


 Image: Virginia Verran, Bolus-Space (signal), 2009/10, Pens on canvas. Courtesy the artist

A group exhibition titled Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action [1] took place at White Cube in July this year. The show was curated by Susan May and featured over 200 drawings by a host of significant artists including Bruce Nauman, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Raqib Shaw, Gabriel Orozco, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Gary Hume, Luc Tuymans, Georg Baselitz, Miroslaw Balka, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Julie Mehretu and Rachel Whiteread, amongst others. The drawings were hung in clusters on dark walls which made the exhibition appear like a museum; the term Kupferstichkabinett means a dedicated room in a museum for drawings to be kept. The exhibition sought to look at the pivotal role of drawing in current practice.

The Huddersfield Art Gallery is currently showing Every Day is a Good Day [2]; an exhibition of drawings by John Cage curated by Jeremy Millar. The composer John Cage is a major influence to musicians and artists alike, and is famous for his 1952 work 4’33” in which three movements are performed without a single note being played. In this exhibition the drawings are hung using a computer generated random number program similar to the Chinese oracle called the ‘I-Ching’ [3] with a hundred works on show and over nine hundred and twenty works on rotation. The placing gives rise to chance encounters between works, giving a sense that the installation itself is an ongoing creative process. The drawings express John Cage’s day to day thought processes, composed from a series of procedures. Unlike his better known analytical musical works, the watercolour drawings are poetic and fragile  Drawing is in its immediacy is more difficult to control; Cage’s struggle to contain process within drawing comes across within the works.

Image: John Cage, 10 Stones, 1989, Colour soap ground aquatint and spit bite aquatint on smoked paper © The John Cage Trust

In a recent exhibition at Hauser and Wirth curator Germano Celant explored Louise Bourgious’ less famous pieces. Fabric Works [4] comprise a series of patterned abstract collages created using bits of textiles including napkins and clothes collected from the artist’s life. The compositions are instinctive, following the patterns on the fabric, reflecting a sense of Bourgious’ compelling need to create. In an interview with Art Review, Celant explains “the fabric drawings can be taken as a visual diary of the last 10 years of Bourgeois’ life: something intimate and personal but at the same time a ‘shroud’ of the last stage of her existence and feelings” [5].

Similarly in the exhibition Rachel Whiteread: Drawings [6] at Tate Britain, Whiteread describes her drawings as a “working diary”. Her sculptural manifestations are predominantly large in scale and highly complex in materialisation, yet her drawings speak of something other, a seemingly more intense experience but still concerning the same themes. The cool analytical thought applied by the artist to deconstruct everyday objects is used to draw the clutter of her own world. In both exhibitions the fleeting qualities of drawing is seen as a revelation.

The multifarious nature of drawing is explored in the exhibition A moving plan B – Chapter ONE [7], selected by Thomas Scheibitz for the Drawing Room, London. Scheibitz’s interest lies in drawings that are not usually seen, made by artists who are better known for their work in other mediums. Scheibitz explains that the selected drawings “possess autonomy and convey meaning beyond the often very constrained and specific conditions within which they were made” [8]. The exhibition includes Tacita Dean’s cutting book for the film Friar’s Doodle. The film documents a drawing on the walls of Santo Domingo de Silos a Benedictine Monastery in Northern Spain and is edited in such a way that the drawing is never in its entirety but broken down into fragments. The cutting book shows fragments of the film with red pencil marking the movement of the cut, a flurry of thoughts are set down on the page. As an audience viewing this cutting book we are placed in a similar position to that of the viewer of the film, attempting to decode graphic residues.

Image: Tacita Dean, Cutting book for The Friar’s Doodle, 2010, Pencil, ink, Sketchbook. Courtesy Frith Street Gallery and the artist

The current exhibition at mima titled Drawing in Progress [9] curated by Gavin Delhunty, displays works by artists from post-war America. On a recent episode of the Culture Show [10] Delhunty comments “the artists were asked to select a drawing that for them represented an exploding moment, a point in time in which drawing did something more for you than any other media”. The artists shown in the exhibition are all highly regarded and influential figures, noteworthy for moving drawing beyond its historical conventions and parameters, forcing a reassessment of virtually all the criteria under which one might produce, view and discuss drawing. Among the earliest works in the exhibition are a series of six, colour pencil and graphite drawings on vellum from 1968 by Stephen Antonakos titled Large Open Neon. Originally plans for sculptures these drawings appear to describe more of the artist’s intention than the subsequent sculptures.

Image: Stephen Antonakos, Large Open Neon, 1968, colored pencil, graphite pencil and fixative (Krylon) on paper. Collection of mima Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Presented by the Art Fund under Art Fund International

These seven exhibitions explore drawings potential to uncover a more intimate portrayal of the artist’s ideas. Drawing has a life of its own: an autonomous value. The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 does much to explore the scope of drawing through a wide range of mediums and approaches. Artist and writer Deanna Petherbridge states in The Primacy of Drawing that “Drawing renders thought visible” [11]. The immediacy of drawing tells us something of when ideas are at their purest; thought captured as a frame in time is a timely subject and well worthy of exploration.

Please comment on this post if you have found any other drawing exhibitions that have captured your imagination.

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 was exhibited at JVA at Jerwood Space from 29th September to 7th November. The exhibition is now on tour at South Hill Park in Bracknell [12] until 23 January 2011. For full tour details please click here

[1] Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action, 8 July—28 August 2010, 48 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB
[2] John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day, 20 November – 8 January 2011, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield, HD1 2SU 
[3] An ‘I-Ching’ is an oracle of Chinese origin that offers advice according to a line drawn by throwing a coin.  The ‘I-Ching’ was used by John Cage to influence the process of his decision making when composing.
[4] Louise Bourgeois: Fabric Works, 15 October – 18 December 2010, Hauser & Wirth,  23 Saville Row, London, W1S 2ET
[5] Fabric Drawings Art Review: November 2010
[6] Rachel Whiteread: Drawings, 8 September 2010 – 16 January 2010, Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
[7] A moving plan B – Chapter One, 16 September – 31 October 2010, Tannery Arts, Brunswick Wharf, 55 Laburnum Street, London, E2 8BD
[8] A moving Plan B – Chapter One by Thomas Scheibitz , 10th December 2010
[9] Drawing in Progress,  26 November 2010 – 20 March 2011, mima Middlesborough Insisutute of Modern Art, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ
[10] The Culture Show BBC TWO, Episode 16 2010/2011
[11] The primacy of drawing: histories and theories of practice / Deanna Petherbridge. New Haven, Conn; London: Yale University Press, 2010.
[12] Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010, Until 23 January, South Hill Park, Ringmead, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 7PA


  1. Hannah Tindle December 24, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    An exhibition that has stuck in my mind would be ‘A Recent History of Writing and Drawing’ shown at the ICA throughout July and August 2008. I think it was particularly poignant as it highlighted the relationship between hand and machine, bringing the notion of ‘drawing’ into contemporary discourse.

  2. katie December 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    generally the drawing exhibitions that spring to mind are ones that showcase another ide of an established artist like the rachel whiteread one..

  3. Christine January 14, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    This looks exciting

  4. Max February 8, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I enjoyed the The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 exhibition and found about five works that ‘engaged me’. Rather surprisingly, two of these were video pieces. The graphite explosion and the blindfolded room drawing really introduced some important issues. They were well conceived and executed but also brought to our attention the ‘object’ and ‘action’. Sadly however, the clarity between the noun and verb was not entertained in the following event discussion that took place. I was also further disappointed to learn from one of the judges that the criteria rested on what was submitted. Surely it is preferable to define the boundaries with a little more distinction prior to viewing entries. Indeed, when is a drawing not a drawing? I have a clear definition that I shared with the panel at the event but I found no justification from any quarter for inclusion of Warren Andrews’ piece. In a visually saturated and quite frankly monotonously ridden sector where creative writing is required to justify work, surely there must be room for ‘multi’ and ‘combo’ references? I think it would be wise and innovative for the Jerwood to revisit the debate if only to confirm their own criteria of drawing. Other recent ‘drawing’ shows have not held my attention quite so well… The Rachael Whitread being a particular low point lacking entirely any semblance of content.

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