The American artist and writer Paul Madonna said “I don’t think of sketchbooks as sacred…. They are rough materials. And in that is where I find beauty…. My notebook is with me always, always, always. It is an extension of my mind.… I let my mind wander and pay attention to where it goes. This is, in art, how I practice creativity.”
What is in the mind of an artist or writer when their work pours onto the canvas or onto the written page. What influences them? What do they sketch, write about and record? How do they translate these influences and ideas into the finished works? We are as fascinated by the intricate sketches and drawings of Leonardo di Vinci as by his large paintings. A corner of this veil of mystery has been lifted for the British sculptor Barry Flanagan (1941-2009) and artist Joe Tilson (born 1928).
At the Waddington Custot Galleries in London, “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Barry Flanagan’s first exhibition at the Rowan Gallery in London with work from the early decades of his career, curated by Dr Jo Melvin, Director of his Estate. Alongside the amazingly-varied sculptures are two cases, “vitrines”, of sketches, letters, photographs, exhibition cards and other material that link directly to works on display.
In Alan Cristea’s gallery nearby, a few pages of Joe Tilson’s sketchbooks, which contain notes, drawings, studies, photographs and even poetry, are open next to the prints which have grown out of them and which retain the informality of the original sketches.
Venetian architecture is a recurring theme in Tilson’s work and in the sketchbooks where some pages are filled by a mass of architectural details; others have just one sketch of a building such as La Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelistica, which has then become central to a final work; others have explorations of compositions to come with text, butterflies, animals and lizard, also incorporating details and patterns from the architecture.
Somehow word processors and computer drawings are not the same…..