The exhibition, 'Austin Wright: Emerging Forms' is on at the moment at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. For those of you interested in sculptor's drawings this is a very interesting exhibition as it includes several of his working drawings as well as a selection of his early drawings that point to his emerging interest in the depiction of three dimensional form.
I must apologise for the poor quality of the images but all the drawings were under glass and I couldn't find a position where either myself or the gallery spotlights weren't reflected in the glass. Even so do go and look at the original drawings. I was particularly taken with the drawings of everyday life just after the war. His figures have a monumentality and grandeur about them, all reduced to essentials and seen as emerging sculptural forms even before he was working as a sculptor. His more linear later sculptures may be of interest to those of you thinking about making three dimensional linear drawings, as in a post David Smith context, but all of you should be interested in his drawings that attempt to sum up groups of figures as simple masses.
Drawings for hanging sculptures
Details of drawings dealing with groups of figures
These small exhibitions tracing the history of recent Modernist art practices are nearly always rewarding, you just have to be receptive and open to ideas that sometimes feel old fashioned or not contemporary and in doing this I think you become able to appreciate a much wider range of art works and above all educate your eyes to see.
When I was young it never occurred to me that I would at some time in the future be writing a sentence that suggested that Modernism was old fashioned. However in 7 years time it will be 100 years since the original publication of Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook. It was a central text in relation to my own art education, but already nearly 40 years old when I first encountered it as a teenager at school in Dudley. Wright was born in 1911 and Modernism would have been the dominant mode of expression throughout Western Europe for most of his working life. But times have changed and yet in some ways they haven't. I'm reading the Rev. J. G. Wood's 'Insects at Home' a comprehensively illustrated book published in 1871. The preface states this; "The reader may probably notice that these figures of insects are but slightly shaded, and in many cases are little but outline. This is intentional, and the shading is omitted in order that the reader may supply its place by colour." The text goes on to recommend mixing ox-gall in with the colours so as to neutralise the oily lines of the printer's ink. There is something of the Modernist in this, a democracy of engagement, that suggested the reader become engaged in a process that would lead to the fixing of the insects firmly in the mind of the reader. Klee encouraged the reader to take a line for a walk, the Rev. Wood encourages us to colour in the wood engravings in his book. Art becomes something that we can all do, and Modernism released us from the need for academic training, in France the Salon de Refusés had allowed non trained artists to feel as if they could produce work of equal significance to their Academy trained peers. But strangely the art schools that were set up as models of the Bauhaus, eventually became as academic as the old academies. Klee's teachings becoming central to the idea of a Modernist art education, but now perhaps we need a new Salon de Refusés, another new start, a fresh Modernism or even a new academy if that's not a contradiction in terms. If so what would we teach? Maybe the arts of bioengineering, robotics, and nano-technology?