Dark Queen' 2023 charcoal on paper 130cm x 114cm
Throughout history, the act of drawing has been an immediate response to the seen experience. The hand and eye work instinctively moving charcoal, ink, or pencil around paper — the resulting image revealing the essence of a subject in an instant. From the intent laden robustness of Primitivism to the controlled erudition of classical compositions, great drawing has required the artist to scrutinise their subject and eliminate visual assumptions.
The ability to draw is the cornerstone to the act of making pictures. Line and tone are the strata that build the composition of the picture plane, which ultimately ensure the success of later layers of paint. Drawing, however, is much more than a substrate in the act of painting. The medium rewards effusive mark-making, allowing stories to be told and real or imagined worlds created. The artist that pursues a practice of looking and drawing is afforded great insights into the things that most of us pass by unwittingly.
Obsession is often friend of the artist. Jody Graham has dedicated her career to the pursuit of pushing the medium of drawing and indeed, its very definition to the outer limits. Every waking moment is dedicated to the interpretation of what she sees and feels. During her plein air drawing amongst the ancient streets of France, monuments became a particular fascination for Graham—marble and bronze odes to the detritus of civilisation drawn with visceral intent, echoing the act of sculpting itself.
Voilà is an exhibition of many parts yet speaks as one body of work, resulting from the artist’s residency in France in the latter part of 2022. Collectively, the installation is a window into the eclectic mind of an artist born to constantly move and draw. Exploration and experimentation have become complicit bedfellows in the creation of a narrative—one that explores beyond the street-based landscapes and into the hidden secrets of the layers of human habitation.
Through darkness and light, Graham draws out the personality of the places she worked. Her exhibition’s genesis is, in part, a homage to one of the great draftsmen of Australian art history, Brett Whiteley. In his seminal 1990 exhibition, Paris ‘Regard de Cote’, the catalogue epigraph poignantly says all that needs to be said about an artist’s enquiring vision.
He who sees further renders less
Of what he sees,
However much he renders.
Jody Graham is an artist who enquires deeply into places that are not her own and through her drawing reveals much about a broader world and the stories that have made us.