Review: ‘Artists’ Sketchbooks’ Exhibition

The Mount House Gallery welcomed visitors to the new ‘Artists Sketchbooks’ show on Friday 1st February, to open the second annual Visual Arts Week at Marlborough College. Diverse and captivating works by eight contemporary artists are currently being showcased.

Their sketchbooks, being presented alongside the artist’s final works, give us a deeper personal understanding of each artists’ creative development within their differing working processes. Unique visual enquiry, experimentation in materials and ideas abundantly display the variety and contrast between styles.

Siobhan Humston often uses unusual and experimental techniques in order to reflect deeply on humans’ relationship with our surroundings and nature. Using natural materials, the artist has created a series of 20 boiled, botanical prints; paper has been infused with the imprint of collected natural forms. Siobhán has also kindly provided 42 of her recent exploratory sketchbooks.

Katherine Jones’ prints and sketchbooks successfully express the tensions between safety and danger, through the power of landscape. The prints display an apprehension of an unknown outcome, translating the undiscovered that we see in landscape. Whilst the bleeding colours give the viewer a sense of the intimacy between safety and danger.

Anita Taylor’s use of line, history of the mark and dark atmospheric shadows, when depicting the human figure, reveal the insecurities and imperfections that the subject doesn’t want the viewer to notice; this choice made visible by the closing of the subject’s eyes. Her sketchbooks obviously depict the value of life classes and highlight story telling elements within her searching works.

Tom Cartmill’s mark-making emphasises his focus on materials using handmade books and creating dramatic atmosphere within his close-up compositions of nature. Tom’s attention to visual rhythm is particularly evident and compelling, building up interesting surfaces, making the viewer see the world in an original perspective, and displaying a new beauty within nature.

Jon Duplock’s simple use of colour and form, strips back the composition, removing the drama and highlighting the simple beauty of the world, that could usually be dismissed. The exotic lands he portrays not only displays something unfamiliar to the Western eye, but also highlights the depth of the unknown and introduces dramatic colour juxtaposing the simplicity of the composition.

Alex Norman-Walker’s large drawings, in contrast to her sketchbook pieces, allow us to witness Alex’s process and the development of her ideas. The large compositions developed a sense of fading memories, amplified by the distressed paper on which the compositions sit.

Lucy Smallbone merges fiction and reality throughout her pieces; vivid colour and expressive lines give us a wide insight into her mind and ideas, whilst the uncertainty of the form, develops the idea of the insecurity of landscape.

For Susan Preston, the development of idea, within the environment she is located in, is vital to her creative process. Based on found material, Susan makes free sketches and plans for development, often working within the conformities of a grid. Pastel tones and indefinite lines express the fragility of nature and challenge the firmness of the grid.

We are very grateful to the exhibiting artists for the opportunity to delve into their raw ideas and experimental processes, to gain further understanding in how artists’ develop their practice. Thank you also to Mr Parnham who invited the eight exceptional artists to show at the Mount House Gallery, leading to such a rich exhibition. ‘Artists’ Sketchbooks’ continues until 2 March 2019, Wednesdays to Saturdays 2.30pm-5pm. (Closed 16-24 February).

Holly Smith (EL L6) and Miya Scott (MO L6)

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