‘What is it to draw? How do we do it? It is the act of clearing a path for oneself through an invisible iron wall.’
This quote from Van Gogh sits handwritten on Sally Taylor’s studio wall, one of a series of prompts for her actions. Reflecting her naturally questioning approach, it provides an incentive for the leap into the unknown, to the commitment of marks on a surface, to finding images, and to seeking resonance through material means to expression and exploration of what it is to be.
An outpouring of activity, made in quick succession, these drawings are firmly set in the present tense and experience. They are both singular and serial in form, the insistent motif of a head imposed and imprinted on found surfaces, often the insides of discarded book covers. The pages of these repositories for knowledge – for fact or fiction – traduced, discarded, emptied out, leaving just a carapace.
This palimpsest of former purpose is key to Sally Taylor’s work as she inscribes these faded surfaces. Re-purposed rather than abandoned, the book covers become a precious and rare material, like vellum or parchment, to be over-written. A fine, paradoxical, line is drawn between preciousness and worthlessness as the books reduced to a skeletal form become the ‘ground’ for her responses through mark-making and collage.
As she fills these voids, heads jostling for attention appear as specimens and spectres. Left open, or closed, the covers retain and imply the format of a private communication space for her facts and fictions, dreaming distilled through drawing. Here, text is subordinated to the drawn language, a fundamental means to understand and to re-interpret the world.
Text by Professor Anita Taylor, Dean of School of Art & Design, Bath Spa University. Co-founder of Jerwood Drawing Prize and Director of Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge.