There was a lovely period for drawing when the Kitchen Sink fifties slid into the Pop Sixties, the rules were changing but nobody had quite pinned them down yet. Hockney's early drawings from that period, have that quality of uncertainty, drawings unfinished as though to conclude them would be to kill them. Many exist as tantalizing glimpses or spare little fragments of a butterfly mind, finished drawings were for losers, those without parties to attend, lovers to meet, deals to be done, life to be lived. A little scribble can suggest so much more, especially when we know the artist. I've chosen Ian's drawing because it reminds me of that period, a time when even the great Kitchen Sinker John Bratby produced some lovely unfinished drawings of his unlovely lavvie.
In Ian's depiction of our inspiring model Kay, we have red apple cheeks against pan stick white, a tight little nose with sharp lips all combining to suggest a face from another era. It's odd and strange, an apparition from beyond and I find it compelling. Some works have that effect on me where like opening a door, a dim memory is dragged into daylight and some passion from the past is revived. We all have fads and infatuations which seem to define our life and then inexplicably fade, subsumed by the next vehicle for our ardor. I think that's also true for materials where a certain colour starts to dominate, for me it's a warm yellow ochre that I find irresistible, for others it might be the buttery smudge of oil paint or the precise incision of a needle sharp pencil. Why do we have these mysterious urges, what do they mean and where do they come from? I suppose part of it is an association with success, another part is maybe it's sensuous tactility, it just feels nice and goes on so well and the other part is that it does a job, it's reliable and helpful, we feel like we have an ally in our enduring struggle.
I often think that the relationship of materials to maker is an ignored aspect of the history of art, regularly, I suspect we make stuff because we like the feel of the materials we handle. There is a sensual symbiotic connection between hand, brush and paint, hand crayon and paper, and whatever else we choose to make art with. I think this primal connection starts early. I have a baby granddaughter who is presently teething and she has chosen a toy giraffe as her favourite weapon. The way her chubby little fist tightly grips the poor giraffe's neck to enable easy steering of its head into her mouth demonstrates to me the pleasure and instinctual nature in which certain objects feel good and do their job well. Even as a baby we understand this. Favourite brushes, favourite pencils, pastels, palette knives, broken credit card scrapers, sharpened chop sticks, twigs, sponges, blades we have an almost a fetishistic attachment to this kind of stuff, they act as the good luck charms in which we trust our success. And the only way we can make this voodoo stuff work for us is by doing it, who knows which charm will work for which person. The quiet sorcerer within all of us takes over each time we choose what materials we'll use. Subliminally I suspect we're thinking, how can I animate the spirits and find that little portion of good fortune that will make a special piece of work. As I write this, I'm chanting and trying to divine the meaning and magic behind all this accumulated garbage on my painting table.
Ps. what's your indispensable bit of kit? Mine's an old brush with about five bristles which had a fight with a very sharp scalpel and lost but when I use it, it stops everything looking too neat and contrived. I couldn't paint without it. What's yours?
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Catherine, David, Dick, Hadyn, Ivan, Roger H, Roger S, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Ian.