Since 2003, over 1,000 distinguished and emerging national and international artists have participated in the Drawing Biennial, an exhibition and auction at Drawing Room, London. Artists are invited to make an original drawing in any medium on an A4 sheet of paper. The works are presented in the gallery and on an online auction site for four weeks, culminating this year in the auction finale on 15 May. Prices start from £250.

“Each artist has been specially chosen for inclusion whilst their contribution is unfettered by a prescribed theme or concept,” explains Drawing Room co-director Kate Macfarlane. “The drawings have been made in the past few months by a wide range of artists, from established to those just beginning to make a name for themselves.”

This year’s artists include: Rachel Goodyear, Susan Hiller, Richard Grayson, Elizabeth Price, Rose Wylie, Bill Woodrow, Brigida Baltar, Sara Barker, Leo Fitzmaurice, Kate Davis, Tania Kovats, Lothar Gotz, Michael Landy, Cornelia Parker and Paul Noble. Among the selectors for 2013 are Michael Craig Martin, artist and designer Julie Verhoeven, writer Geoff Dyer, curator Sacha Craddock, art collector Valeria Napoleone, and Contemporary Art Society director Paul Hobson.

Drawing’s primary role

A significant number of works are representative of practices in which the medium of drawing performs a primary role in the production of ‘pictures’ or images. Other works are typical of an archival impetus in contemporary art in which drawing, along with photography, print and other graphic forms, plays a crucial role. Some of the artists are intimately associated with the medium of drawing and others not at all.

“The one thing these works share is a relative modesty in size,” says Macfarlane. “The artist is requested to make a work on an A4 sized sheet of paper and any deviation from this format tends to be slight. This fairly standard sketchbook size is not too onerous or disconcerting. The works are hung alphabetically; this is a level playing field that emphasises that drawing is a democratic medium.”

Exhibitor David Austen, whose studio at Tannery Arts is in the same building as the Drawing Room, comments: “It is a terrifying adventure to be part of Drawing Biennial 2013. It’s a great leveller and all the work is unique. Drawing Room is seen by artists as one of London’s best non-profit spaces.”

Artists in the biennial employ a wide range of media, from archaic techniques to contemporary commercial technologies. The transformative nature of drawing is there for all to see. Exhibitor Emily Speed comments: “Aside from it being a really valuable fundraiser for Drawing Room, I’m excited to see an exhibition that showcases such a broad range of approaches to drawing. It’s like a survey in that sense, a total drawing feast.”

Macfarlane concludes: “The Biennial demonstrates that drawing is a porous medium, one capable of infinite manifestations, entirely suited to the production of truly innovative responses to our world. There is an underlying consistency in the role that drawing plays within artistic practice throughout history. Drawing is a wheel capable of infinite reinvention.”

Drawing Biennial 2013 runs from 18 April – 15 May, Drawing Room, 12 Rich Estate, Crimscott Street, London SE1 5TE.