Jerwood Space (The)

The eleventh annual Jerwood Drawing Prize aims to reward excellence and talent in contemporary drawing. In contrast to last years exhibition the work here is more diverse, encompassing works on paper, DVDs, animated drawings, projections and objects.

The curators have done a good job at presenting 77 artists in such a small space but at times it does become claustrophobic. Three videos were actually shown on one screen so you had to wait for each to elapse before the next began. Other smaller pieces were clustered together, the bombardment of imagery difficult to unravel.

However, this is the nature of such a show and you must approach it with this in mind because there are some real gems to be found. 1st Prize winner Melanie Jackson sets out to try and trace every source material and industrial process involved in the manufacture of a handheld GPS device. The digital animation is cleverly constructed, using a succession of mark making to evoke the process of manufacturing the product. The use of sound helps to clarify the evolving events, whilst at times altering the context of the piece through its absence.

Tim Knowles produces drawings by tying mark-making implements to tree branches, the resulting image controlled by the winds effects on the tree. This utilisation of chance is further explored by Brighid Lowe who uses rain to interrupt a repeated surface. In both cases, systems beyond the artists control reveal the hidden, or otherwise unnoticed motion of objects.

In contrast to some of the work here, these artists use drawing as an activity for highlighting a wider discourse. It never becomes drawing for drawings sake. Over the years, the Jerwood prize has asked (and to an extent answered) the question ‘what is drawing?’ This years selection of artists have gone a step further by asking how drawing operates as a cross-media process of observing, thinking and writing. This enquiry is not only more interesting but extends the shows agenda to embrace the work of those who see drawing as an applied as opposed to merely creative practice.