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Drawing is part of Wendy Nanan’s DNA
Artist Wendy Nanan is mounting an exhibition of recent work at Medulla Art Gallery, 37 Fitt Street, Woodbrook Thursday, March 22, at 7 pm.
It is said that drawing, and knowing how to draw the human figure, is one of the basic tenets of the artist’s craft. It teaches an understanding of perspective, proportion, light and shade, the use of line, and how to render mass and volume with a basic knowledge of human anatomy. Reference the master drawings of Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Goya and Degas.
In this age of preserved sharks, veils of obscuring snow, unmade beds and overblown metallic fabrications, is drawing really still essential? Some art institutions have stopped offering life drawing classes. But that is over there in the contemporary art world. Here in the Caribbean, viewers and buyers still respond to the literal figurative, to humans in a landscape, to the beauty of the body in its tropical surround. Bad drawing is immediately obvious, it just looks wrong. Continuous practice, artists have learnt, is the only way to master this skill.
Drawing is part of Nanan’s DNA and she has been drawing from the nude since her days in the Sixth Form art class at Bishop Anstey, under the tutelage of Judith Laird, who was seen as provocatively modern to introduce male nude models for Sixth Formers to draw. Nanan is still drawing, and drawing from life, continuing the training and practice, the discipline of looking and understanding; of engaging that part of the brain that transcribes what is seen on to the blank paper. It is a muscle that never forgets, but must be continually exercised until the intuitive takes over.
We are familiar with the brush and ink cricket drawings of Nanan. In our art world there is nothing quite like them. They are singular in their depiction of cricket, but not of cricket. Deft, calligraphic strokes of the brush, austere little black and white drawings, they are as if a Buddhist monk has sat in the Oval drawing cricket in play. There have been many imitations of their visual grammar but without understanding the meditative process in their making, they fall short as only decorative. Why there is no public repository of a collection of these cricket drawings, where they can be viewed by anyone, anytime, is beyond understanding.
This exhibition showcases some of the work done over the past three years at these sessions. No pose has lasted longer than 25 minutes, some as short as one. Here too, some of the drawings have been extended into narratives, suggested, perhaps, by the poses, the expressions, and the attitude of the models. We sense that Nanan is having a bit of fun, executing a bit of magic realism. Yet beneath it, the love of pure drawing is apparent, and of wanting to show us what she has seen.
Giving artists the opportunity to draw the life model, Medulla Art Gallery and The Trinidad Art Society have been staging life drawing sessions, once a month, for all interested persons, not only professionals, but students and amateurs alike. For a small fee, the sessions are two hours of quiet, intense concentration—where looking is more important than the finished product. It is in this atmosphere of serious communal effort where encouragement to dig deeper, to go further, is found. To look and look again. And, make decisions quickly.
Nanan’s exhibition runs until Saturday, April 14 and gallery hours are 10 am-6 pm (Monday-Friday); and, 11 am-2 pm (Saturday).
On Thursday, April 5, a panel discussion, moderated by Dr Marsha Pearce on the relevance of drawing in today’s art world, will be held at Medulla at 7 pm.
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