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A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford

7 July 2018 | Emily May

Modern Art Oxford in collaboration with Drawing Room, present their latest exhibition A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at their beautiful, former brewery base in Pembroke Street, Oxford. Aiming to show how drawing remains prevalent in the digital world, the exhibition displays over 30 works (with a further 10 at the Drawing Room) that demonstrate how the art form interacts not only with other disciplines, but also world events.

Modern Art Oxford approach the medium of drawing in its widest sense, and if you visit expecting room upon room of delicate pencil sketches you will be pleasantly surprised. The featured artists collide drawing with other mediums so that there are a range of pieces on show, from installations to collage. Although at times this makes the exhibition a little unfocused and imprecise in its thematic focus, there are many standout works on display, including Kathy Prendergast’s Atlas (2016) installation. In Atlas, there are 100 abstracted AA Road Maps of Europe upon tables and placed around the vast Upper Gallery, organised approximately according to their position within the continent. As it deprioritises precise locations and borders, it references contemporary concerns such as globalisation and the UK’s current Brexit negotiations, and therefore fulfils the exhibition’s aim of highlighting how drawing can make us “slow down and reconsider how we see and understand the world.”

Image Credit: Kathy Prendergast, Atlas, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.

Other works that aim to explore how drawing can “articulate the complexities of both the past and the present” include Barbara Walker’s  Backdrop (2018), Untitled (2018) and Flags (2018) which depict scenes from the First World War based on historical archive photographs. Untitled in particular depicts the Senegalese Tirailleurs (riflemen) who were a colonial corps with the French army, with the aim of shedding light on the plight of Black army personnel whose stories have been historically marginalised. Her technique of combining dark, drawn figures, with those depicted through white embossed paper is particularly clever, as it can either be seen as drawing attention to the Senegalese in contrast to the faded white figures, or, the white embossed figures can appear to be reminiscent ominous ghosts walking amongst the troops and reminding us of the fate many soldiers, which is particularly poignant in WWI’s centennial year.

Image Credit: Barbara Walker, Backdrop, 2018. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Chris Keenan
2018 is also the centenary of Women’s Suffrage, and Modern Art Oxford accordingly has many works by female artists on display, some of which deal with feminist themes. Prime examples of the latter are Kate Davis’ Disgrace 1, II, III and IV (all 2009), which use pages from The Drawings of Amadeo Modigliani depicting his infamous female nudes, which Davis has aggressively drawn over, erratically tracing her own body parts to disrupt the male gaze and reclaim control of the female image.

Image Credit: Kate Davis, Disgrace IV, 2009. Courtesy of the artist.
Although the exhibition itself may only take you an hour or so to explore, there are plenty of related events that you can engage with if you can’t get enough contemporary art, or you yourself have been inspired to translate your world views into a skilful sketch. Head to Argentinian artist Amalia Pica’s Drawing Workshop on 8 September which responds to ideas explored in the exhibition, or take your toddlers to an Early Years: Make Play session (21. 28 June, 2, 12, 18 July) where there are many different experimental activities to inspire them to be curious, playful, and who know, maybe become a visionary contemporary artist.
A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings is running until 9 September 2018 at Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP

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