This exhibition is part of a response drawing project ran at ArtWorks by artist Johnsey since 2019. The project has undergone many development stages; starting with small scale collaborative projects in our studios, adapting to lockdown conditions, growing to large public collaborations, beginning to explore 3-dimensional drawing surfaces and finally experimenting film. The project is extremely successful at engaging participation and drawing creativity out of anyone, especially those who say 'I can't draw'. Participants are invited to listen to music and draw guided by its rhythms and melodies. A lack of aesthetic expectations for the result of the activity reduces the pressure and allows participants to fully liberate their creativity in the moment.
ArtWorks Responds: Lazy Compline at Wakefield Cathedral is an exhibition which consists of large scale paper drawings, six spire sculptures embellished with drawn marks, and a digital film which captures the drawing process as if the viewer was underneath the working surface. It has been our biggest and most challenging response drawing project so far and we wanted to share the process with you.
The project was a collaboration between our artists across all three of our sites- two in Sheffield and one in Rotherham. We connected using Zoom to begin the drawing process together. Over three consecutive weeks, Johnsey led digital workshops during which our artists could see their friends from each building and share the creative energy with each other over the internet.
While drawing, the artists listened to a selection of choir music which may be performed during the Lazy Compline. The list of music was provided by the Director of Music at Wakefield Cathedral, Ed Jones. ‘It’s all quite serene and meditative, with the hope that it just washes over the top of you when it happens’, said Ed.
Another aspect of the response drawing project is that artists not only respond to music, but also to each other. At the beginning of each week, Johnsey swapped drawings between our buildings. In each drawing session, artists worked into a different drawing, adding to each others marks and collaboratively building the final compositions.
The same process was applied for drawing onto the spire sculptures. Experimentation with 3-dimensional shapes in the response drawing project began last summer when large white cubes were installed at Wentworth Woodhouse as drawing surfaces for public collaboration during We Wonder festival. For the project at Wakefield Cathedral, the form which the sculptures took was informed by the environment of the Cathedral which we were working with. The shape of the sculptures was inspired by church spires and the colours chosen as the background for the drawings, dark blue, mellow pink and sandy stone, are colours which we found around the building.
The final, most challenging and exciting, aspect of the exhibition is the film. This is the first time that we have incorporated moving image into the response drawing project and it was a completely new experience. The idea behind it was that we wanted to create the illusion of the marks appearing on the screen as if drawn by an invisible paintbrush.
In order to produce the video, our artists dressed up in green morph suits and painted onto a large perspex screen. This was filmed using a camera on a tripod on the other side of the screen, capturing the effect of the drawing process from 'underneath' the painted surface. The photos and video below show this process.
The video footage was edited by our team member Michael Brown who specialises in film. It was created by filming hundreds of painted abstract marks individually. These marks were then digitally layered in sequence to create the final effect. The technique was designed to combine digital and analogue artistic practises, so to stay as faithful as possible to the immediate intentions of the artists.
We are very pleased with the outcome of the exhibition and hope that you enjoy it too! We'd love to hear what you think so please email email@example.com with any feedback and make sure you follow @artwoks_sy to see where we take the ArtWorks Responds project next! It has been a great experience for our artists who were able to experiment with new skills and techniques.
To find out more about the response drawing project check out @johnseyartist on Instagram and watch the video below.