Patrick Heide Contemporary Art is pleased to present Drawing History Painting, David Connearn's second solo exhibition at the gallery, which brings together large and small works on paper from the artist's 2017 project Refuge, and a selection of current works entitled Signata.
Art, and more specifically visual art has always been a popular means to record and depict historical events, and critically comment on economic, political, and social iniquities. Drawing History Painting asks if and how real situations that challenge our imagination and understanding, but still demand our response, can be translated into art and represented in a purely aesthetic format such as abstract drawing. The exhibition responds to one instance of a contemporary situation in which millions of endangered people are forced to flee their countries of origin, trying to make their way into Europe to seek refuge: the Calais camp and its destruction in December 2016. Holding that all representations of history have an agenda and often bear a corrupted message, the artist states: "History and its painting must lie, in the way that memory can and news media does." Connearn's abstract drawings create another kind of thinking space in which to consider art's response to its present time, set at the border of control and uncontrollability, of intention and subjectivity.
David Connearn's series Refuge, consisting of four large works and a number of smaller size Studies, investigates the issues above, as well as questions concerning responsibility, participation, denial and erasure. The works, which continue to use Connearn's technique of repeating closely copied lines drawn freehand from top to bottom of each sheet of paper, emerged from his confrontation of the condition and treatment of child refugees living in the camp in Calais. Colour sequences are used to represent the identities of unknown individuals, which are then superimposed with black or white acrylic ink in an act of obliteration. With this series, Connearn, who has hitherto refrained from using colour as unnecessary or decorative, started to use coloured acrylic inks, inspired by the primary colours of the flags of origin of the Calais camp's refugees. The superimposition of colour on colour, and overdrawing with black and white inks introduces new aspects of layering and grading to his minimal scheme. Colour and drawing-over have been adopted to offer an allegorical reading, a pointer towards the emotional register of the thinking that remains in silence behind the work.
The Signata drawings have a similar expression. The large drawing is composed of 10,000 gestural "signatures", overdrawn, as if censored out, and resulting in a dense, black structure that leaves the spectator slightly uneasy. Connearn is not only commenting on the danger of disregard and acts of obfuscation or "cover-up", but is also raising questions such as: What does it mean to make a gesture? To leave a signature, a mark?
Herein lies the power of Connearn's works in Drawing History Painting. They allow us to consider the terrible atrocities we are confronted with from an abstracted, philosophical point of view. At the same time the works raise questions about involvement, commitment and responsibility in their highly personalised approach.
David Connearn's work has been exhibited widely throughout UK and Europe, with solo exhibitions at the galleries Concept Space, Shibukawa and Star Gallery, Nagoya Japan 2013. He is included in important international private and public collections such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, the Arts Council England and The Economist amongst others.