Rachel Whiteread’s drawings

Rachel Whiteread’s drawings exhibited at Tate Britain are a fascinating account that compare sculptures with modern architecture. Sketching furniture with correction fluid, tracing silhouettes of buildings and spaces on graph paper, articulate a deep preoccupation with the way imagination converts one’s two-dimensional seeing into a three-dimensional world. In some sketches, buildings are painted over with varnish, prompting us to consider the inter-dependence of the exterior and the inteior, the outward appearance of an architecture and the interiors or the inhabitants themselves.

rachel whiteread drawings at the tate

There is, typical of her work, no visible sign of human interference, yet the skeleton of these houses convinces one of a living if hidden presence. It is as if the simple lines, shapes and primary colours suffice to render or allude to what’s there.

Tracing forms and shapes with the use of primary materials, grids and minimalist lines, Whiteread’s drawings take on a pristine quality and an unspoken understanding towards urban living. City dwellers, hidden most of the time behind the wall facades of offices, homes and public buildings, are the faceless that populate these spaces. The recurrent motifs of walls, floors, windows and doors convey ritual and repetition.

One especially intriguing dimension her drawings: the meditation on the patterned floor. It teases the imagination, this exposure of the floor behind the carpet, beyond the footsteps it ensures day and night. The image of the textured floor on measured grids, coloured plaster white with correction fluid or varnish painted, hints at the passage of history, that in due course even the weathered floorboard we walk on will fossilise and become part of the past.

Credits Palm Beach Art http://www.pbart.com

See TATE ETC magazine for an interview with the artist, especially her engaging artpiece Place / Village, click here.

Henry Moore

With the exhibition on Henry Moore drawing to a close at Tate Britain, I went there for a browse. I had always harboured interest for the artist’s work, ever since I noticed ‘The Oval’ in Exchange Square, Hong Kong.

the oval sculpture in Hong Kong, Henry Moore
The Oval

Compared to the two isolated sculptures I saw in my home city, this exhibition at the Tate was breathtaking. The scale (150 artpieces) simply blew me away, and the sculptures rendered a coherent narrative on the artist’s experiments with different textures and shapes. I realised why the Guardian named it as the most important exhibition of Moore’s work for a generation.

The shelter drawings were highly engaging, featuring sketches of victims in air raids and dark mines. The war materials are honest and uncompromising, revealing Moore’s strengths as the official war artist, a side of his that has often been overlooked. His work echoes William Blake’s sublime, more apocalyptic drawings.

Henry Moore war shelter drawings
Henry Moore's shelter drawings

Manipulating the tension between cave and point, Moore’s indulgence on the mother and child theme as well as his love for the reclining figure were brought to the forefront. Soon you realise that the recurrence is not coincidental. It is an avant-garde experiment of form, texture and touch.

Some considered Moore’s work to be ugly, unnecessarily ugly. For me, the sculptures were a test of form and the chunkiness helped to give more fullness and sensuality to the idea of the body, the raw flesh.

I am especially fascinated by the range of materials Moore adopted for his work. He liked to use well-polished stones – green hornton, cumberland alabaster, cherry wood, elm wood and oak wood. Taken together with the organic forms, his sculptures lessen the divide between man and nature. Personally, I feel that Moore displays a greater mastery of naturalistic materials such as stone and wood rather than metal.

His exhibition also brings to light an interesting theory that advocates the silence of the artist: a sense of mystery or silence is needed to preserve the impregnable quality in the artwork, i.e. the artwork is larger than the author (click here for documentary on Henry Moore)