Tracing the Century highlights drawing’s fundamental role as a catalyst and vehicle for change in modern and contemporary art. The exhibition includes around one hundred artworks from the Tate Collection together with key loans by artists such as Sara Barker, Leon Golub, Jasper Johns, Julie Mehretu, Matthew Monahan, Richard Tuttle and Hannah Wilke.
Tracing the Century has at its heart artworks based on the human body and the inner self, opening up the conversation between figuration and abstraction that characterised art in the twentieth century. Rather than approaching abstraction and figuration separately, the exhibition will integrate these genres to explore the continuous slippage between the two.
Drawing’s ability to transcend a fixed set of materials and conventions has ensured the medium’s vitality and power to stimulate change. A number of works in the exhibition, such as Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone 1973, serve to erode the conventional definition of drawing as a static line on a two-dimensional plane. In McCall’s work, visitors can explore the projected line by moving around it, interacting with it and moving within the cone of light created. Line Describing a Cone runs continuously from 11.00–16.30 each day.
Tracing the Century features a number of works presented at Tate for the first time since their acquisition, such as William Orpen’s meticulously detailed representations of the human figure Anatomical Studies, used by students to study anatomy during the early part of the century.
Accompanying Tracing the Century will be a new commission by Matt Saunders, on display in the Wolfson Gallery. Exhibited as silver gelatin prints, Saunders’ enigmatic works on paper are created by projecting light through a drawing or painting to expose a sheet of photosensitive paper. Alongside these prints will be a new animated film made from a huge number of ink on mylar drawings, edited into hypnotic moving images. Saunders’s inventive use of materials, which unites drawing, photography and film, offers another way to engage with the themes within Tracing the Century.