Dryden Goodwin is an artist who can’t be put in a box – having worked with scientists to produce a large scale projection on the Thames, highlighting pollution and offering a window into the souls of the staff at the London Underground through intimate portraits. He is taking part in ‘Come Draw with me’, a participative evening of drawing at Two Temples suitable for all, especially those who think ‘they can’t draw’. London Calling’s Katie Moritz caught up with him to find out more about these projects and his work for ‘Come Draw with me?'
London Calling: What can people expect if they come to your class at ‘Come Draw with me? What are your hopes for the evening?
Dryden Goodwin: I will be inviting the people that take part to do some serious looking, to look closely at each other, emphasizing the making of a portrait as an encounter, a two-way exchange with drawing as a means to record each unique experience. We’ll be thinking about the different states you might be in when drawing someone, from being coolly analytical, approaching with a simple strategy, only looking for specific information to being completely enveloped, involved in a heightened sense of a person, responding directly and intuitively.
LC: How did you get involved with the Campaign for Drawing? What is it like working with them?
DG: Sue Grayson Ford from the Campaign for Drawing invited me to lead a class at last year’s 'Come Draw with Me' event at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a dynamic evening, with an energized group of participants. Pulling drawing into focus as a group, there's an opportunity to share in an experience of both making drawings whilst also taking time to reflect collectively on the wider potential of what might be possible with a drawing.
LC: Tell us more about the ‘Breathe’ project you worked on – what was it like working on such a large scale with such a public exhibition space?
DG: ‘Breathe’ was an 8-metre high projection, animating more than 1,300 small pencil drawings I made of my 5-year-old son, breathing. It was positioned high up on the roof of St Thomas' Hospital, across the Thames, directly opposite the Houses of Parliament. It could be seen by people crossing Westminster Bridge on foot or by transport. The project was part of a series of collaborations between artists and scientists, enabled by an organisation called ‘Invisible Dust’ and its Curator Alice Sharp. I worked with Professor Frank Kelly, an expert in lung health based at King's College London and an advisor to the Government about air pollution.
Seeing the moving rendered drawings of my small son's head, torso and arms set against this vast cityscape at such a dramatic scale, addressing the vastness of the sky and the atmosphere, then facing across to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, one of the Western World most powerful institutions, I wanted to emphasize vulnerability and fragility. I hoped the shifting rhythms of his breathing, sometimes regular, sometimes faltering, sometimes laboured, could create a consciousness about the act of breathing, a real sense that air can both sustain but also corrupt.
LC: How did ‘Linear’ for ‘art on the underground’ come about and what did you learn from working on that project?
DG: Linear, developed following an invitation from Art on the Underground to make portraits of Jubilee line staff. I made 60 pencil portraits of staff at work, or at moments of pause in their day, and created 60 films recording the drawings being made. Each drawing concentrated on a person’s face and head. The short films, each between a minute and three minutes long, showed the accelerated progression of the drawings, accompanied by fragments of the conversation between ‘sitters’, and myself
The portraits were drawn in different locations, such as a train operator’s cab, in signaling towers, management offices, station control rooms, ticket offices and gates. Through the intertwining of these individuals’ varied roles, with the abundance of their personal revelations and experiences, different themes emerged encompassing life, death, love, personal obsessions. I was excited by how Linear became both a physical and an emotional mapping of the Jubilee line.
The drawings were displayed on a variety of poster sites across the London Underground network. The films can still be viewed online, tfl.gov.uk/art offering the opportunity to unlock the creation of each portrait. Rather than attempting to depict the hundreds of staff who work on the Jubilee line, I wanted Linear to evoke a sense of their personal contributions through the detailed portrayal of just 60 individuals.
I’m interested in attempting to extend the limits of what portraiture can do. I often combine various media, such as drawing, sound, photography and video. I’m interested in multi-layered portraits, to explore a heightened sense of individuals or collective group of people.
LC: What is your answer to that age-old question, ‘I can’t draw’?
DG: It’s liberating to release yourself from the pressures of trying to make art and instead just engage with your desire to try to record a response to something or someone, you can employ quite simple strategies when drawing - it could even be game-like, as if solving a puzzle. Defining what you’re investigating can give a drawing tremendous focus.
LC: What is coming up next?
I’ve just come back from an incredible trip to Bangladesh, visiting and working with artists in Dhaka. It was inspirational to see how artists from such a different artistic heritage engage and create work within the dynamics of this very different metropolis.
Following a live action film I made last year focused on a group of young divers, I'm currently developing a new film project, combining live action and drawing which I am looking forward to starting work on later this year. I also have a number of projects underway involving portraiture and etching for permanent installations, one in the streets of London and one in Cambridge.
For more information on 'Come Draw With Me' please click here
For further information on Dryden Goodwin please visit his website
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