Thursday, 11 July 2013


I recently went to an exhibition of a talented young artist, Daniel Jacobs. His exhibition at the Kachette Gallery on Old Street is called "Graphite 2013". As its name suggests, all the drawings are executed in the medium of pencil: a churning sea, a willow fence, shattered glass. Each of the drawings on display took up to three months to create, labour necessary to build up each stroke, fleck, mark and smudge. This is what the Exhibition Curator, Rita Says, had to say about it:

Drawing is not an easy process. It’s tough on the eye and mind; it’s a continual act of appraisal - making and matching, re-matching and unmaking each mark altering the next. The paradox of the realist project is an attempt to describe the every day thorough a process of suggestion, to create a form of documentary realism using non-realistic means. How little is a black scratch on paper really like the edge of a shadow or the branch of a tree? The mark remains obstinately itself, yet as part of a whole it depicts a precise thing: we should find this combination between depiction and suggestion a lot more magical than we do.
It made me think how similar the choice of words and the placing of a pencil stroke on a page are similar acts. How each mark influences another, giving it meaning, shade, tone, darkness, light.

In writing, too, the insertion or deletion of a word can alter perception. The novelist Jim Crace once advised a young writer to use vigorous images in her work. To show how a warring couple couldn't stand each other, she described how the husband would always find an excuse to escape into the garden:

In the last months of their marriage, there was always a bonfire at the bottom of the garden, emitting smoke. 

Crace challenged her to use a more testing metaphor. She changed only one word, but that small change transformed the sentence. She rewrote it to read, "In the last months of their marriage, there was always a bonfire at the bottom of the garden, knitting smoke," a more testing metaphor, making us see the blackened sticks and branches crossed like thick needles and the long, grey scarf of smoke.

Daniel Jacobs has applied the same, meticulous care to his art. To look at it is to see both magic and mastery.

Stay tuned . . .

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