Jerwood Visual Arts, 171 Union Street, Bankside, London, SE1 0LN

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Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013
Jerwood Visual Arts, London
11 September - 27 October 2013
Review by Catrin Davies

The Jerwood Drawing Prize leaves its awkward teenage years behind after this year and perhaps as a parting gesture to adolescence the first prize goes to a piece of work dedicated to a slacker boyfriend in a pair of Nikes chewing on some gum. Svetlana Fialova’s winning drawing ‘Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care)’, 2013 is an illustrated cut-and-paste which sums up a jpeg generation of snatched references and back-of-bus-ticket doodles. But if Fialova’s self-confessed ‘apathetic’ portrait in cheerful pastel pink and turquoise feels a little regurgitated, the pounding hooves of the impending apocalypse which surround her boyfriend, lifted from Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Apocalypse’, suggest Fialova is maybe more than just a fashionable doodler.

When a shortlist consists of 76, whittled down from 3,000 by a committee of three (Kate Brindley, Director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima); Michael Craig-Martin RA, artist; and Charlotte Mullins, art critic, writer, broadcaster and Editor of Art Quarterly) there is bound to be conflict and peaks and troughs in quality. That’s the nature, and magic, of open-call competitions. And hung as they are, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition-style in the Jerwood Space, as a viewer you’re practically being told to compare and contrast.

If the winner is someone who toes the traditional line, in the sense that the artist favours working with ink and paper, you get the feeling her first place position is incidental rather than political, seeing as the exhibition doesn’t feel weighted towards any particular medium. Given that iPad drawings, video works, sound installations, 3D sculptures and interventions all feature, there is a healthy mix of the diverse, the conventional, and the challenging on show. The competition aims to show a cross-section of contemporary practices and with such a broad selection of works on show, it generally succeeds and benefits from not being categorised or restricted by medium.

For the purists, plenty of deft, delicate hand-drawn works make the final cut: Nanako Kawaguchi’s head covered in a fairy-tale camo mask of multi-coloured waterfalls, rainbows and flowers is a pretty, psychedelic acid trip; Roy Eastland’s ‘They looked like silver birds’’ (2012) recounts the German air-raid over Folkstone in 1917 through silverpoint portraits and first-person accounts of the events, told in small, intimate and incidental details. Kristian Fletcher (winner of one of the £2,000 student awards) produces an intricate pen, pencil and charcoal landscape (‘The Wrench’, 2013) and Gary Lawrence creates a religious experience out of Stansted airport in his brilliantly orange work, ‘Saint Stansted (and Other Stuff)’ (2013).

Marie von Heyl is just one of the artists on show who plays with the confines of drawing by offering up a video work in which she uses her body as an implement and her flat as a kind of pseudo-canvas. Von Heyl was awarded second place (and £5,000) for her work, ‘Interior (Utopia)’ (2012) in which she creates angles and parallels with her body mirroring the lines of architecture and furniture in her home. In terms of creating conceptual drawing work, von Heyl feels leagues ahead; her work feels fresh and progressive in a way that some of the works here actually fall flat. Thankfully the exhibition isn’t above throwing a few more, abstract curve balls, such as Lindsay Connors’ Dada-esque torn envelope from the Inland Revenue stamped with the words ‘Important, Act Now’ - from which the title of the piece is taken. Similarly Scott Robertson’s pencilled note, tacked to the wall reminding us (or him) to ‘Chin Up’ is just as clever and wry’But is it drawing’ Even just pondering that, feels like this year’s committee has served its purpose.

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