For his latest architectural intervention, David Tremlett and a team of assistants spent 12 days rubbing pastel crayons onto the walls at Tate Britain with the palms of their hands.

The resulting painting, Drawing for Free Thinking, swathes an interior stairwell at the gallery in broad blocks of colour and line. TateShots climbed the scaffolding to document the process.

This particular work, when I was asked to consider it as a space, the first challenge was, it’s a stairwell, and therefore how do people mount a staircase was important. So I looked at it from an architectural point of view. It’s an attempt to make a very dominant room into something which has, in a sense, been built on. It’s been constructed on, it’s been elevated by a form of drawing; and so you start by slowly draw up the whole drawing, just with pencil lines. And once the pencil lines are drawn up, you start to tape up certain areas, you get pastel pigments, sticks of pastel which are very dry, and you rub them over the particular area that you’re going to make. And this is massaged by hand. Once you’ve done one, you then cover that up with plastic, so that the next one is ready to go, so that one by one they are completely separated from the other. All surfaces are kept clean, and when you’ve finished you strip off all that plastic; you expose the whole drawing, and we varnish everything with a pressurised spray gun, and that’s it.

As a student of sculpture, I was obliged to draw, even if by virtue of just doing it on a wall; there is a certain flatness to it all. It was always about building. I decided to call it ‘Drawing for Freethinking’, in that freethinking is something which I think we all have the chance to think freely, no matter who you are, where you are. I, as an artist, have always felt that the freedom I have is probably the most valuable part of being an artist. I am an abstract artist, and I’ve always been an abstract artist, and I feel that that abstraction forces you to think, and look, and decide in a completely different way, because there are no small hints that you can really latch onto quickly; and therefore, for a public, it’s about looking hard and trying to make sense of what you are looking at. So the thinking element of this particular work, or the idea of the freedom of thinking, is really about a work that allows you to try and think about, not just necessarily what I make, but why you are here, why is it here, and everything else.

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