Contemporary British Drawings

6 September – 29 September 1985

A British Council exhibition of 90 drawings by twenty leading British artists showing the varied and rapid developments which have taken place in British art in the last ten to fifteen years.

This exhibition is about contemporary British art and it is about drawings. The last ten to fifteen years have seen rapid and varied developments in British art. Exhibitions tend to highlight aspects, usually by showing the work of one or two individuals, sometimes by picking on one trend or movement. Thus they give little or no impression of the context in which specific things are done and they leave a distorted impression not only of the whole national picture but also of individual achievements.

Yet it is impossible to offer a truly representative display of what is going on, even one limited to the best examples of work in the many different directions that are currently being pursued. What one can do is to assemble works numerous and strong enough to show both the nature of the individual activities and shared concerns representing some of the dominant issues of the time. To do this in the relatively small format of drawings has advantages of a practical sort. It also brings other benefits, not least that of showing twenty two artists in their most comparable form. The drawings is the least theatrical art form, the most intimate, the least rhetorical and thus the one that often reveals most about the artist and his ideals.

The broadest possible licence has been taken with the term 'drawing'. It embraces fully fledged paintings on paper, developed studies towards specific works in another medium and on another scale, initial graphic investigations as part of a programme of research that may or may not culminate in a related work, sketches and elaborately worked drawings done for their own sakes and also drawings that are in some measure records, in some measure variations and extensions of other works. To show all these side by side reveals a great deal about the function of the drawing in modern art generally and reminds us of its continuing importance.

('Contemporary British Drawings', Bulletin, No.41, September/October 1985, p.2)