Galleries - September 2010

his unique turn of phrase he defines a pen as “a sharp mover of dark liquids,” and describes natural pens (quills, reeds, bam- boos etc) as being “as sympa- thetic as flutes”. He singles out Raphael, Leonardo, Poussin and Matisse as superb penmen, with Dürer being the “crack pen draughtsman of all time”. Back to the present with two of our own sure shots: Rose Hilton, obviously someone in tune with flutes, spoke withenthusiasm of making her own quills from fea- thers gathered along the Cornish cliff tops near her home. A very different response came from Maggi Hambling, who as usual had her own slant on the subject. “I thought it would be nice to draw witha quill, so I went off to Batt- ersea Park and collected some goose feathers. I carved the end into a nib – and couldn't make any of the marks I wanted to. In the end I stuffed the other end into the ink and used it like a brush.” Despite this experience, or per- haps because of it, she remains a great admirer of the Eastern masters whose eloquence lies as much in the marks they don't make as in those they do. “One wrong mark and you've got to throw it away. Don't ask questions, it just happens.” “In fact,” she added, “the excitement is in throwing most of it away.” Mark Shields' drawings can be seen atthe Grosvenor Gallery's stand at the 20/21 Art Fair. control and logic – it features strongly withthe Cubists and Futurists – then its organic per- sonality breaks through. Ink spat- ters, bleeds or suddenly dries up altogether. It reminds us that art evolves through accident and the ability to see an opening in the unexpected. This is the pen and ink world of Palmer, Hugo, Kubin and Delvaux. It's not surprising that a great modern painter who once wrote of his desire to merge architectonic and poetic elements succeeded in this with some of the most perfect and profound works in the medium. That was the mag- ical master, Paul Klee.” EnglishNeo-Romantics suchas Minton, Piper and Ayrton found pen and ink admirable for capt- uring the linear patterning of foliage and architecture, a tend- ency taken to extremes nowadays by Tyrel Broadbent withhis dithyrambic doodles. Other artists, RalphSteadman for example, relishthe liveliness and potential anarchy of ink, something Van Goghdelighted in: “As for printer's ink I wanted to say, try splashing and smearing withit – at random and from the imagination as it were – on a piece of paper or an old study, just for the effect. But gently – withturpentine – then I'll believe you'll see things in it that will prove useful.” In his highly idiosyncratic version of an instruction manual, The Drawing Book , Jeffery Camp examines the kind of marks you can get from the wide variety of pens and nibs now available. With 12. GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 10 Where does ink sit in the artistic firmament? Is it even still in the artist's arsenal? In the past one of the most universal of the 'fine line' media (a Renaissance term to distinguishit from the broad line of charcoal and chalks), it was tau- ght to apprentices once they had mastered the stylus, leadpoint or metalpoint. (Ink was permanent, errors could not easily be remov- ed.) On the CD set recently issued by the British Library, “Connecting Lines” (dedicated to the memory of the late Judith Bumpus, a foun- der member of their Artists' Lives project), artist after artist talks about various aspects of drawing – a fascinating insight into how, why and what (or all too often, why not). Deanna Petherbridge singles out pen and ink for its economy of means and austerity, what she calls “the imaginative use of the minimal”. Stephen Farthing explains why Van Gogh's ink drawings so interest him, making the point that the drawings are often of his paintings, the marks of the pen in effect trans- lating the brushstrokes, “taking the battlefield of painting back into a graphic medium”. When I asked one of our lead- ing figurative painters of the you- nger generation, Mark Shields, what was special about using pen and ink, he said: “I suspect it has muchto do withits remarkable potential to combine the spont- aneous and unpredictable witha rigorous clarity of structure. The dip-pen demands respect. At one moment it speaks in a voice of SPLATTERS BLEEDS & DRIES S arah Drury M ark Shields ‘Head of a Boy’