Outside The Lines -Full Text

Outside the Lines – Contemporary drawing practice

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office, Dublin

In 2011 I Co-curator an exhibition with Sile O’Sullivan, for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office. This exhibition examined the diverse drawing practices of nine local artists who are originally from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown or who are living or working in the area. A unique and exciting opportunity for the public to see the best of contemporary drawing practice from the area.

As part of our role we presented a curator talk, and further assisted by feeding into the mediation programme, which included workshops and artist talks. This accompanying mediation programme looked to encourage audiences to explore, engage and examine what is and can be “Outside the Lines”

Curated by Ashleigh Downey & Sile O’Sullivan, August 2011

This exhibition platforms a range of contemporary drawing practice in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. It presents work by nine artists who are originally from the County or who are now living or working here. They span several generations and as such are at different points in their careers, with some increasingly exhibiting work on an international stage. Each is pursuing drawing as an independent practice in its own right or uses drawing as an important element in their visual language and process.

Outside the Lines presents both traditional drawing methods as well as approaches by artists who are re-imagining the possibilities of drawing as a medium and using unconventional tools and methodologies.

This exhibition includes a variety of processes ranging from Julie Merriman’s carbon drawing to Anita Groener’s animated drawing and Joe Stanley’s hand-made drawing device placed in the boot of his car to record the topography of a journey. Some of the artists engage in mark-making with careful planning and control while others adopt a more open ended approach which allows for the unknown or unexpected element and the chance occurrence. Some work at a point between these two approaches. For each of the artists, the decision about the inclusion of every individual mark, whether carefully or randomly placed, has its own integrity and significance within the rhythm of the overall work. The marks that are left out are as important as those that do appear.

Common themes and connections can be found between some of the works including the referencing of the drawing conventions used by other disciplines such as architecture and cartography. The influence and harnessing of technology in creating work also has a particular relevance. However, this exhibition primarily seeks to allow the opportunity to view every artist’s work as an individual practice.
Each of the artists has developed their own distinct process and aesthetic from Julie Merriman’s exquisitely executed linear architectural drawing to Anita Groener’s drawing language of repeated miniscule lines and dots. Joe Stanley’s works remove visual stimuli from the drawing process while Kate Betts’s intricately detailed etching and collage works of bones and other fauna specimens are created by drawing from life.

The sparseness and subtlety of the lines which seep across the paper in Cecily Brennan’s watercolours emphasise the vulnerability of the human bodies who seem in danger of physically disintegrating and dissolving altogether from the surface of the page. Brian Fay uses different drawing technologies to record and mark time in delicate pencil on paper works which meticulously map the deterioration of the surface of old master paintings and nitrate film stock from silent film. Niamh Jackman’s works focus on the interplay between random and deliberate mark-making. Her Machine for Making Imaginary Drawings embodies the idea of all the possible drawings that can be conceived- a motorised pencil tracing them in the air without ever permanently committing marks to paper. Caoimhe Kilfeather works within a sculptural tradition but drawing is integral to the conception and realisation of her work while Patricia McKenna uses natural materials in a 3d drawing installation that invades the architectural space.

Outside the Lines includes work that is both abstract and representational, serious and playful, that draws upon art historical influences and embraces up to date technologies and experimental approaches. It offers an insight into the rich breadth of practice, working methods and commitment to drawing by a selection of artists connected to the County. Together, this body of work reflects how drawing practice is currently being reinvented and revitalised and challenges conventional expectations of what a drawing can be and how it should be achieved.

Sincere thanks are due to all of the artists – Kate Betts, Cecily Brennan, Brian Fay, Anita Groener, Niamh Jackman, Caoimhe Kilfeather, Patricia McKenna, Julie Merriman and Joe Stanley. We greatly appreciate their generosity in welcoming us into their studio spaces and sharing insights into their working practices.