If you had visited the Hanover Project gallery (UCLan, Preston) this past October, you would have noticed a minimal yet intriguing exhibition. The works hung with good distance between, leaving only the contemplative white gallery walls and not the pretentious emptiness of some contemporary art exhibitions; which created a lightness in the show allowing the viewer to experience the work and not be bombarded by it. The exhibition was named Different Tongues, and showed artists Kelly Chorpening and Dean Hughes’ exploration and interpretation of one of the fundamental artistic acts; drawing.
So…a drawing exhibition by artists who draw and whose practices focus on drawing; do we expect to see pencil lines on crisp white paper? Photorealistic boredom of perfect faces and textures and tones? No, of course not. We see what currently is and should be of drawing in this day and age; an experimentation and consideration of an array materials and form. And with this we find; wooden constructs and soft fabrics, and metal forms holding and shaping paper. The show certainly inspires the viewer to question what drawing really is.
When entering the gallery, one is immediately attracted to Kelly Chorpening’s work, perhaps because of its perfect and almost illusory finish. Composed of rolled metal shapes arching, curving and coiling whilst clinging to the walls, mounted on these are intricate drawings of semi-abstract patterns in what seem to be a multitude of coloured fine-liner pens. This use of many colours, some sharply vibrant, creates an illusory effect. The result of which being an overall subtlety and politeness in colour. The imagery suggest architecture or some other form of construction, but in a very subtle manner.
And then there is Dean Hughes’ work. Wooden maiden or ladder-like constructions holding simple cut out shapes of felt in basic bright colours; some with just one colour, and some with a variety. This collection of work finds its strength in its perfect simplicity, and in that an honesty. Every material used is made obvious, adding an admirable beauty to the work. So, what are we to find in this work? Soft fabrics of bright colours hung like clothes to dry. Perhaps drawing, or image making, at its most stripped back. After all, these are certainly well composed images, and one could argue that they are most definitely drawings; their image has been drawn from the chosen materials.
One negative point about the show could be made in relation to its curation. Every piece in the show sits comfortably on the walls at an average viewing height, and with a sensible distancing between each. However, one piece of Hughes’ is hung at such a height, above a square archway where the dimensions of the room suddenly diminish, where the close up and contemplative experience becomes impossible, leaving the work in a state of separation from the rest of the show.
On the whole this exhibition is interesting and, in context, opens up debate on the limits of drawing. Yet in content the show is polite, inoffensive and almost friendly. And this is not a complaint; so often can a work’s strength be lost in excessive ‘purpose’ or the over telling of its message. Chorpening and Hughes’ interrogations of drawing allow their creation of images, rather than the reverse. This results in the highly considered work of Different Tongues.
Kyle Nathan Brown is a freelance artist and writer based in England.
Image courtesy Hanover Project.
Different Tongues, Hanover Project, Preston.
1 – 23 October 2015.