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Drawing resurgent as sound artist wins Jerwood Prize

Written by Anna Castleton
Published date 18 September 2014

Alison Carlier's sound work
The announcement of Alison Carlier’s sound work Adjectives, lines and marks as the winner of this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize affirms the resurgence of exciting contemporary drawing practice in Britain. Marking the first ever sound-only work to win the prestigious prize, Alison was selected by judging panel Gavin Delahunty, senior curator of contemporary art, Dallas Museum; Dr Janet McKenzie, author and co-editor of Studio International; and artist Alison Wilding RA, whose remit was to “champion excellence and promote and celebrate the breadth of contemporary drawing practice within the UK.” Alison graduated from MA Drawing at Wimbledon College of Arts in 2013.

Adjectives, lines and marks is formed of Carlier’s voice reading a description of a Roman pot found in Southwark, close to the site of the Jerwood Space; its source is a reference book held at the Museum of London Archive Roman Southwark Settlement and Economy – excavations in Southwark 1973-91Mother No.O and Wait a minute, it’s the truth and the truth hurts XIV, the two winning student prize works by Wimbledon MA Fine Art alumna Ara Choi and Central Saint Martins BA Fine Art alumna Annette Fernando respectively, see UAL graduates winning three of the four prizes for 2014, the twentieth anniversary of the prize.

Speaking after the announcement, Alison Carlier says: “Drawing seems to be in an exciting position at the moment; on the one hand working across media such as audio/visual and performance whilst the 2D surface continues hold great potential. Drawing is undergoing a resurgence, perhaps because  at it’s root it is a shared practice; sculptors preparatory sketches, and the close alignment of drawing with printmaking, for example. Making drawings is familiar to artists across the board; it is a known and established discipline. But further than that, the quintessential nature of drawing; its proximity to thought, its directness, and often open-endedness enables it to create a discourse across and between media.  Drawing Sculpture recently shown at The Drawing Room is an example.”
Annette Fernando, Wait a minute, it's the truth and the truth hurts XIV, 2013. Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Photography: Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

Reflecting on the contemporary relationship between drawing and sound, UAL’s Chair of Audio Culture and Improvisation Professor David Toop says: “There are close links between drawing and sound art. A lot of sound artists and improvisers would be happy to say that some part of their practice follows Paul Klee’s famous maxim of ‘taking a line for a walk’. To pick one example, Christian Marclay’s work with records and turntables began as a form of inscription, of following the lines cut into vinyl records. There is also the question of scale. Drawing tends to be intimate and close and sound art, particularly environmental sound recording, is predominantly an exploration of detail within the sound sphere or of auditory phenomena close to the ear. But drawing is also more in tune with the sketch, the transient marks that make no claim to permanence or greatness and working with sound and listening always has some sense of that transience, simply because sound is fleeting.”

“Today, when I use the word drawing I am thinking of a two dimensional, not necessarily hand-made image, executed with a view towards facilitating the understanding, design and/or explaining a multi-dimensional event” comments UAL’s Chair of Drawing Professor Stephen Farthing. “I suspect good drawing, like good writing, reduces a complex state of affairs to a simplified, elegant and intelligible image”

He adds: “The image can have been drawn on just about any substrate (working surface) that will receive a line: from the back of your hand or an envelope, to a concrete wall. It can be drawn with anything capable of making a mark on your chosen substrate: from a line made with the heel of your shoe to an area of tone made by a cast shadow, so drawing is more than paper and pencils. A possibly peripheral, but important to me aspect of drawing, is the degree of flux the drawing process allows. In a drawing every line is provisional until the drawing is finished, only at the end is the event, is it ‘carved’, so to speak ‘in stone’. The greatest drawings are the ones that have the ability to communicate their content without the help of either the written or spoken word. Drawings of this type are, however, few and far between, as most drawings are dependent to a degree on either oral or written support.”
Ara Choi, Mother No.0, 2013. Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Photography: Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

Drawing has long been championed by UAL. Hearing the news of the prize winners, Wimbledon College of Arts’ Dean Simon Betts comments: “I am absolutely delighted that Alison and Ara have been so successful at the Jerwood Drawing Prize. By winning these prizes their commitment to the practice of drawing, and the quality of their work is given due national recognition.

“Contemporary drawing is now a multi-dimensional, multi-media and cross disciplinary practice. What Alison’s sound piece achieves is a new sense of materiality for drawing. Her work in the Jerwood Drawing Prize poetically ‘sketches’ and articulates a space for the ‘viewer’ where the drawing and articulation of the object is completed by the viewers’ visualisation responding to a spoken analysis of objects. There is a long and profound relationship between drawing and writing, but what Alison’s piece takes further is the creation of an interactive space where the drawing takes place between the spoken word and the viewer/listener. At its edge, the listener also makes a drawing. One of drawing’s purposes is to test the limits of visualisation, ideas and materiality, and this Alison does; she has made a multi-dimensional drawing.

“At Wimbledon College of Arts we are developing a new Centre for Drawing that will build on Wimbledon’s rich heritage of engagement with the practice of drawing, and one that will encourage research into new forms, materials and purposes of drawing. The notion of a centre implies that a thing or idea is at the heart of other things and ideas. At Wimbledon College of Arts we are exploring this new ‘centre’ for drawing as being the College itself; that is to say drawing situated at the heart of what we do, and extending outwards to create links and relationships with other practitioners, ‘centres’ and forums of contemporary drawing.

The last five years has seen debates around what is drawing, and what is a good drawing, inform practice, research and pedagogy. I want to see a ‘Centre for Drawing: Wimbledon’ that develops those ideas, investigates new forms, instigates research and shapes pedagogy. How we do that may well be on the basis of a more ‘viral centre’ that shapes itself dependent on shifting discourses and new forms of practice. However, while this more fluid notion of a centre for drawing should remain responsive and generative, it is because we believe that drawing remains at the centre of what we do as makers.”

Of her time at UAL, Alison says; “I studied MA Drawing at Wimbledon with Michael Pavelka,  which allowed me to push my ideas. The course is now led by Tania Kovats. As her work is at the forefront of  contemporary drawing practice, she is ideally placed.”

The Jerwood Drawing Prize is on show  until 26 October at Jerwood Space, read more on the Jerwood website

Listen to an extract from Alison’s work on the Jerwood SoundCloud

Read more about UAL’s Chair of Drawing on the UAL website

Read more about UAL’s Chair of Audio Culture and Improvisation on the UAL website

Search drawing courses at UAL