One Small Step

It is good to see students at rival art institutions collaborating and exhibiting together. Joseph Richards an RCA graduate and Jonty Lees from the Slade both take a playful look at the possibilities in drawing through other media, such as, paint, plasticine, film, blue tac, enamel, chalk to name just a few of the materials used. Their joint show BOOM at One Small Step in Clerkenwell negotiates a contemporary art space that doubles as a music and commercials production company and in a visual conversation between the two artists that plays against the gallery’s combined interests they explore the rhythm of drawing and imagery. For example, our taken for granted view that experience is continuous is disrupted in Joseph Richard’s film, Rise to Set. This humorous and technically aware film uses editing to great effect and works by bringing the artificiality of the image to our attention yet still left me guessing as to whether he really sat on the same spot for a whole day. Jonty Lees films also play with the idea of perpetual motion and use clever, simple devices in Windmill and TT Matic to create wonderful drawing machines. His ping pong machine adapted out of a leaf-blower for example, shows a systematic and self-referential tendency still at work in contemporary art practice and seems to point the finger more specifically at painting.

The rhythm of drawing changes dramatically in Joseph Richard’s painstakingly detailed pencil drawings, which show an obsessiveness that is exploded in the content of Bolder and a doodling in his smaller drawings with a comic quality that puts one in mind of Philip Guston but without the emotional punch of Gaston’s imagery. The tackiness of blue-tac in his Awoken by the Light, has hints of the grotesque, but this show to my mind is more about the discrete nature of drawing and more broadly, representation, rather than any broken down line between abstraction and figuration. Joseph Richard’s imagery verges on the fractal and surreal. His simple language of dots, repetition and doodles make delicate and quirky patterns and objects that reflect not only a movement between micro and macro worlds where things emerge and disappear with their own rhythm, but also allows the irrational to poke through the sensible world of reason.

Although the conversation between the two artists may at first appear to be one sided through sheer volume of work, in the end this sort of collaboration proves complimentary in strategic terms. With each artist cueing the other at different intervals they do achieve a certain tempo. Jonty Lee’s Ping-pong appears to be emblematic of an out-moded individualistic practice in contemporary art while Joseph Richards seems to want to retain a certain amount of expressiveness in his.