Great Graphite @poppysebire

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Things these days seem to come and go in and out of fashion all too easily. I always sigh at the sight of those articles in the Sunday supplements which list what’s on the up and what’s on the down. This simplistic approach to evaluating life does no favours to either the cultural must-haves or the sadly passé.

The art world unfortunately is no exception to the drive to find the next “in” thing, and the quiet import of basic drawing is all too easily overlooked. Yet good drawing is enduringly tantalizing and luckily there are always curators and galleries prepared to find time and space to show it, and artists prepared to put pencil to paper and make marks in the way man/woman has made marks since time immemorial.

The current exhibition at Poppy Sebire in London is a case in point. Curated by Danny Rolph, the show brings together a fascinating collection of mostly graphite works on paper, ranging from traditional takes on classical sketching through to innovative sculptural applications with the medium.

As I wandered the space in an almost ritualistic thrice-around fashion, each encounter with each work brought something new.

There’s just something about drawing which directly communicates in a manner quite unlike any other. I’ve always felt this is to do with the expressive force of marking a surface directly without intervention of any conscious intermediary. The whole brain-eye-hand connection is at its most powerful. Even deliberate strongly patterned drawing can take advantage of this directness. It’s not just limited to free gestural mark-making.

And so walking around, I felt instances of complete identification and empathy with many of the works.

Just to take a couple of examples, on my first uninformed and unguided circuit, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of pre-war Germany when I saw Danny Rolph’s piece. On creamy smooth flimsy paper, slightly yellowed at the edges, I thought for a moment the show must be including older works. I was transported to a feel of a very different time and place, and then both intrigued yet unsurprised at the title of the work: Berlin Sketchbook 2012.

A second instance, gazing at an adjacent piece by Olivier Gourvil, following the firm, fluid yet expressive and occasionally hesitant line taking a journey around the surface of the paper. Later, I saw the it was entitled Exploratrice,2011. Of course it was.

There is a lot more I could say, but time is escaping me today. Whatever your inclination, you will find something here to admire, and I don’t say that in a perjorative lowest-common-denominator sense at all. But from the delicate tracery of Ben Ofili’s work to the blackness and depth and malevolence of Marcel Van Eeden’s text piece (and here contrary to the accompanying handout which argued for the force of juxtaposing angry text with a fragile medium, I did not -interestingly – see the work as fragile in any way), there is a range of thought-provoking and enticing work to view.

I was sufficiently provoked and enticed to go and buy a good old graphite pencil the next day and spend a couple of hours sketching in the good old National Gallery.

And don’t be surprised if you encounter hundreds of people sketching on the move this month. Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross Road has a call out for drawings of London for an exhibition.

You see, drawing is all the rage.

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