Show: Untitled, detail, 2009, Pencil on Paper. Anna Barriball.
Tell: “This drawing of a bricked up doorway took a couple of months to make. It is the largest piece using this process that I have made. It was quite extreme physically and mentally to make, a bit of an endurance test.
“I begin by cleaning the object or wall and placing the paper over the surface. I started the drawing on a ladder, and finished it lying flat on the floor. I feel my way across the surface with stroke after stroke of pencil, against the wall, pushing the paper to its limits. Every tiny detail is picked up and in a way heightened. The thick pencil surface has an almost photographic quality. The drawing takes on the weight of the wall while being a thin and relatively vulnerable piece of paper. The tears on the bottom right of the paper expose the papers thinness.
“I need what seems like an endless supply of pencils and pencil sharpeners. I liked the stationary cupboard at school! I like the fact that it is the basic tools of drawing and a very direct meeting of material and action. With the pencil I persuade the paper around the form of the object. I enjoy the slow transformation of the materiality of the paper and that’s why it has to be a total and dense covering.
“This piece takes me back to my previous studio building, where it was made and what was happening in my life at the time. It was in a communal part of the building and I remember feeling overwhelmed by the size of the area I wanted to work on when I started. Then I felt a mixture of enjoying revealing the detail and form through the process, alongside the oddness of being held in that particular place for the duration of making it. I am spurred on by reaching the moment when the final marks are put in place and the drawing becomes complete and autonomous.
“I like the work to have an everyday quality. The quotidian made strange with time and attention. I have a closeness to the things I work with. Often the architectural drawings are made from the spaces I am in daily, at home or at the studio. They feel like diary pieces – a record of my time in a specific space. I had been making drawings of doors and brick walls and this bricked up doorway is a meeting of the two.
“I hope the reaction to this work is quite a physical one. When you stand in front of it I think it confronts you with its own making. Hung low on the wall it can be seen as a plausible architectural feature – a pencil excavation. You are reflected in the glass and the metallic glimmer of the drawing, conscious of standing in front of it and looking. The scale relates to your body and a space we move through. This drawing keeps you where you are physically. There is a space implied behind the doorway, a space behind the surface of the drawing.
“When I looked at it again recently it struck me how the stretched paper had become like a membrane that might start pulsing. I really appreciated what Sophy Rickett wrote recently about these pencil drawings: ‘The marks have been made in rows, as if in bursts, a rhythm in the effort, like words in a sentence with the spaces taken out, gesture and language all rolled into one.’”
Info: Anna Barriball makes work which moves between the parallel languages of drawing and sculpture, often using the practice of drawing to create something which might be more properly understood to be sculpture. Her exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh is open until Monday 9th April.
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