26 September 2003 – 28 March 2004
The Stage of Drawing presents a selection of over 120 important drawings and nearly 30 prints from the Tate Collection, selected by the British artist Avis Newman. It features a wide array of both familiar and rarely exhibited works from the mid-1700s to the 1980s by British and international artists such as Joshua Reynolds, William Blake, Edgar Degas, Pierre Bonnard, William Turner, Aubrey Beardsley, Francis Bacon, Kurt Schwitters, Eileen Agar, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Hamilton, Eva Hesse and Andy Warhol.
The notion of drawing as the silent act of marking, gesturing and making signs is central to Newman’s own practice as an artist. She describes it as the activity that is closest to pure thought. With this in mind Newman’s selection has not been bound by historical period or nationality. Instead The Stage of Drawing demonstrates her interest in drawing as a set of actions which convey sensations before and beyond language, but also in drawing as an exploratory activity – a self-conscious act by which an artist distils his or her own thoughts.
Newman has painstakingly probed the Tate Collection and the individual tastes, fascinations or even obsessions of those responsible for its formation. In The Stage of Drawing works are creatively juxtaposed according to themes and processes, for example bringing together psychically charged drawings by George Dance, Henry Fuseli, Juan Gris and John Hamilton Mortimer in one particular section. Another demonstrates re-occurring fascinations with machines and energy, relating to the potential of drawing to make visible what is not visible. This group includes works by Marcel Duchamp, Natalya Goncharova, William Henry Hunt, El Lissitzky, William Young Ottley and Francis Picabia. Newman has also noticed a particularly English sensibility towards literature and theatre with many of the artists represented – from John Flaxman to Alberto Giacometti to Luciano Fabro – having used the theatrical to exploit the evocative power of metaphor, or to construct a particular location or space in which to project ideas.
The exhibition has been organised by The Drawing Center, New York and Tate. It has been shown at The Drawing Center and Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. There is a substantial catalogue to accompany the exhibition.