ESDS is an ink line drawing of a derelict-looking cul-de-sac backing on to an elevated railway line. The road in the foreground is sparsely littered with debris: a bottle, a bicycle wheel, bits of wood, broken glass and abandoned hinges. A low brick wall on the left demarcates the road from the adjacent property. High metal fencing marks this boundary. Branches from unwieldy shrubbery push through the fence. On the right side, a brick wall inclines downwards towards the road. Crowned with a barbed wire fence, this wall is covered with graffiti, as are the back wall and the metal cladding on the railway bridge. The graffiti are mostly simple tags, the names and initials of the bored teenagers who have whiled away afternoons in this space: ‘Tyrone’, ‘FSUK*’, ‘PSP’. The drawing’s title is taken from one of these tags on the railway bridge.
Under the railway line is a sheltered area where an old cooker has been discarded. It lies on its side surrounded by weeds. In the left hand corner is what appears to be a lumpy mattress. A broken pallet is propped against the far wall and shards of wood lie scattered on the ground. A path on the right leads underneath the railway line.
The drawing is executed in precise, rectilinear lines. Rayson has taken care to depict every object clearly: the vegetation spilling over the walls, the hole punched through the wire mesh fence leading to the rail tracks, and each brick is rendered in sharp detail. Like his contemporary George Shaw (born 1966; see Scenes from the Passion: Late, 2002, Tate T07945), Rayson makes clear, almost photorealist images of suburban landscapes based on recollections of childhood and adolescence. Rayson draws and paints images of suburban Wolverhampton where he grew up and continues to live. He works from memory, depicting areas around the Ashmore Park Estate, imagining what they might be like now.
The drawing has narrative connotations; the traces of debris and graffiti suggest human presence despite the fact that there are no people present. The artist has said, ‘I’m constantly on the lookout for even the tiniest fragment of narrative that collectively can offer up a visual insight into how we feel about where we are living, and how where we live is shaped by how we feel about ourselves’ (quoted in Robinson). There is a nostalgic quality to the image, a tension between the mundane, desolate surroundings of the space and the memories that might be attached to it. The sites Rayson chooses are potent because they so accurately convey the day to day experience of suburban adolescence and urban grime. ESDS looks like the sort of space where a bored teenager might resign him or herself to the future.
Rayson’s work fits in an English urban realist tradition, and he cites the influence of LS Lowry (1887-1976; see Study for ‘Dwellings, Ordsall Lane, Salford’, 1927, Tate N06027) and David Hockney (born 1937; see Study for ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’, 1970, Tate T01517), both of whom use drawing as a means to describe particular social environments (see Robinson). In its precise formal description of an everyday subject, ESDS also calls to mind the linear wall drawings of Michael Craig-Martin (born 1941; see Reading with Globe, 1980, Tate T03102).
Miranda Sawyer, David Rayson: somewhere else is here, exhibition catalogue, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2003, reproduced p.35.
Alistair Robinson, ‘Modern Painters: David Rayson’, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, www.ngca.co.uk, 25 September 2003.
John Slyce, ‘David Rayson’, Flash Art, vol.34, no.225, July-September 2002, pp.121-2.