About drawing?

Drawing? builds upon the success of the group exhibition What is Drawing? at the Customs House, South Shields, in 2013 which was curated by Esen Kaya and Mike Collier. The show provoked many passionate conversations between artists, curators, educators, students and members of the public about the role of drawing in society.

As a result, the Customs House decided to devote a whole year of its exhibition programme in 2015 to drawing – (A Year of Drawing). However, discussions with other professionals from the arts in the NE about the importance of drawing today suggested that there was a real interest from many other organisations to engage further in an open discussion about a practice which is fundamental to contemporary culture, and to share this discussion with audiences throughout the region beyond South Shields.

As a result, Kaya and Collier began talking to four of the region’s universities (Newcastle, Sunderland, Teesside and Northumbria), about the idea of a broader, region-wide focus on the power of drawing as creative practice, linked to the Custom House’s Year of Drawing but extending it to explore the role drawing plays in all our lives: in art, architecture, design, illustration, education, medicine, science & engineering and the everyday.

Following on from these talks, it was agreed to form a steering group to work with other regional partners who had expressed an interest in developing a series of projects about drawing – and to call the project drawing? emphasising both the open-ended and inclusive nature of the discussion as well as the challenge presented.

The steering group consists of:

Alix Collingwood, Curator, mima (and also representing Teesside University)

Mike Collier (the University of Sunderland)

Esen Kaya, (Curator, Visual Arts, The Customs House)

Keith McIntyre, (Northumbria University)

Richard Talbot (Newcastle University)

Sandra Johnston (Northumbria University)

The Artistic Vision for the programme is being led by Kaya and Collier and project managed by Kaya with support from the rest of the steering group. The region’s universities have a key cultural role to play in the broadening access to contemporary debates about art. As such, they are ideally placed to question and challenge the role and perception of drawing in the arts – and, indeed, in society generally.

The involvement of mima is also crucial not only because the gallery’s collection is focused around drawing – but also because the longer-term ambition of the steering group is to create a sustainable project, which will evolve to form a Drawing Biennale. This would be launched in 2017 by mima as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations and would alternate with the International Print Biennale and AV Festival in the NE.

The region-wide organisations who have committed to being involved in drawing? include:

Allendale Forge Studios, Northumberland

Berwick Visual Arts & Northumberland County Council

Queens Hall Hexham 

Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Lime Street Studios, Newcastle

National Glass Centre, Sunderland

Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland

Northern Architecture, Newcastle

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Sunderland

Teeside University Gallery, Middlesbrough

Tynemouth Station, North Tyneside

Vane, Newcastle

Varc (Visual Arts in Rural Communities), Northumberland

The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate

The curators’ aim is to present a focused programme which will be, nonetheless, diverse, challenging and engaging. drawing? will run from the end of June 2015 until the end of January 2016 and will present contemporary drawing as a significant element in artistic expression.

It will include exhibitions, events and associated learning and engagement opportunities for a wide audience across different age groups. A broad range of approaches, processes and media will explore what drawing is today. drawing? will also provide a critical platform for discussion, debate and evaluation about the role of drawing in contemporary art, architecture, design as well as the sciences and the everyday, encouraging the community to participate and critically engage with drawing as practice.