Artist Glenn Brown and Stephanie Buck, Director of Kupferstich-Kabinett at Staatliche Kunstammlungen Dresden, discuss this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize, as Solveig Settemsdal is awarded First Prize, Anna Sofie Jespersen Second, and Jade Chorkularb and Amelie Barnathan the Student Awards.

Why did your winners stand out in particular?

Stephanie Buck: It was not easy to select the prize winners, because there are so many possible approaches to drawing as a medium. Works ranged from observational to more expressive or conceptual. Any of these approaches can lead to powerfully innovative drawings that convey a strong sense of artistic integrity. The works we chose as prize winners are particularly compelling examples of the types of drawing they strive to be. More importantly, they let us forget that they are examples. Rather, they are what they are. They convey their own unique energies and characters.

Solveig Settemsdal’s Singularity is a dynamic sculptural drawing using HD video. A strangely organic but abstract form transforms itself before our eyes in time and space, from inside out, from black to white. The process captivates us intellectually and emotionally. It sets our imagination free using contemporary technology.

Anna Sofie Jespersen’s Sid in Bathtub could not be more different. A young man is depicted from above on a monumental sheet of tracing paper as he lies in a bathtub, smoking. The work is bright purple and beguiling in its motif and execution. This drawing celebrates the beauty of line and colour; it is an enigmatic fusion of expressive and decorative qualities. Sid in Bathtub, though clearly embedded in a long art historical tradition, brings it to life, makes it timely.

What are you looking for when you make your initial selections?

Glenn Brown: One of the strong reasons for picking a work was that it felt relevant. The drawing needed to feel as if it had been made ‘now’ and was relevant to present cultural issues. However, in order to understand a gesture or image, one needs to understand its place in history. It was wonderful to see the myriad of ways artists use the history of drawing and wider cultural concerns to place their work in the here and now.

SB: I try to approach each work with an open mind and I am ready to be surprised. Imagination and a sense of ambition and urgency are important, as are awareness and control of the medium, integrity, intensity — relevance and quality!

Is there a formal criteria for picking the winners?

GB: There were no rigid criteria. We were often surprised by our own judgements and taste.

Have you noticed any exciting new developments or ways of working this year?

GB: There were a lot of artists who wanted to question what a drawing was or could be. We were happy to accept painting, sculpture, video and even audio works. There were a lot of wonderful, conventional drawings too. We were expecting a lot more work that used digital technology but this in no way dominated this year’s submissions. 

SB: I think there are many fresh and exciting drawings in this year’s selection as well as a wide range of drawing practices. All respond creatively to the artists’ inner and outer worlds. As these worlds perpetually change, so too the medium is reinvented and renewed.

Did you find that most of the applicants work primarily as drawers, or is drawing a secondary medium for them?

GB: We tended not to look at the names of the applicants. It was wonderful to be able to see a drawing, and judge it on its own merits. We had no idea what other works the artists have made and how drawing fits into their practice.

Which young artists do you feel are leading the way in drawing right now?

SB: We only found out after making our selection which drawings were made by students. I was impressed by the quality of their works.

GB: There are many reasons why drawing seems incredibly relevant right now. Drawing is a skeleton that holds a body of work together. It can be used to describe complicated ideas and structures in a relatively concise form. The more complex the world appears to become, the more drawing’s ability to simplify seems powerful. The exhibition includes many young artists, including students, who are leading the way.

Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016 is showing at Jerwood Space until 23 October.

Anna Sofie Jespersen, Sid in Bathtub
Amelie Barnathan
Amelie Barnathan
Amelie Barnathan
Solveig Settemsdal, Singularity
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