Raincoat Drawing is one of series of approximately forty scenes of domestic interiors in chalk on a black background that Juan Muñoz produced from the late 1980s onwards. The collective name of the series derives from the utilitarian black fabric of the support, which resembles that used in the manufacture of raincoats. This Raincoat Drawing is exceptionally large, one of only four on such a scale, of which two are in this horizontal format.
Within a slightly off-centred frame outlined in chalk, Muñoz presents a view of an L-shaped room, with minimal furnishings. Walls, surface edges and the skirting board are meticulously delineated, emphasising the room’s precise geometry. A rug, positioned at an angle and patterned with a simple diamond design, contributes to the overall sense of spatial recession and three dimensionality. In the room’s corner, a low armchair and an upright dining chair placed at right angles to each other are turned slightly towards the viewer, calling attention to their emptiness. Aside from a plain side table, the only other furnishing is a picture on one wall, showing a stark landscape punctuated by the silhouette of a tree.
With the Raincoat Drawings Muñoz sought to depict rooms charged with psychological tension, a mood heightened by the dramatic contrast of light and dark. He commented: ‘A normal room is very interesting. You can build stories from a very normal situation. Any normal situation is ready for something to happen.’ (Quoted in Juan Muñoz: Monólogos y Diálogos, p.127.) Whilst Muñoz regarded the Raincoat Drawings as distinct from his sculptures, the suspenseful sense of both absence and presence, and of the theatrical, created in the Raincoat Drawings is characteristic of much of his work. The Prompter 1988 (Tate T12797), for example, comprises an empty stage and prompter’s box, with a figure almost hidden inside it. In the Raincoat Drawings the interiors resemble eerie stage or film sets that seem to await animation. In some of the Raincoat Drawings Muñoz used the motif of an empty staircase, a recurring feature of his sculptures (see, for example, Staircase #2 1999, Tate T12590).
Muñoz connected the inspiration for the Raincoat Drawings with unsettling but prosaic experiences from early childhood, when, returning home from school, he would sometimes find that his mother had switched furniture between the rooms and his room was no longer his. He explained: ‘I grew up with this feeling of dislocation. You feel uncomfortable yet it’s extremely normal. I suppose that this relationship between the normal and the discomforting is part of the territory of the work.’ (Quoted in Juan Muñoz: Monólogos y Diálogos, p.128.) As such, the Raincoat Drawings evoke the concept of the uncanny developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) in an essay of 1925 (‘The Uncanny’). Freud describes the uncanny as a feeling of the strange or mysterious evoked by the familiar.
‘A Conversation, January 1995,’ in James Lingwood, ed, Juan Muñoz: Monólogos y Diálogos, exhibition catalogue, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1996. pp.126-129.
Sheena Wagstaff, ed., Juan Muñoz: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Tate, London, 2008, reproduced p.36.