Ever curious, Drake’s calls on friends, family and acquaintances for an episodic enquiry focused on a single theme.
The latest installment of The Survey asks a series of prominent artists to revisit and retell the story behind one of their most significant pieces of work. The brief was an open one: subject matter, media and form were entirely the artist’s choice. While all tap into something uniquely personal, our contributor’s motivations vary, from the need to capture a private memory to a desire to address larger ideas around the creation and consumption of art itself.
Offering a fascinating insight into both idea and process, we get to know the work of Adam Dant, Lothar Goetz, Luke Edward Hall, Kristin Texeira and Jane Wilbraham below.
For the re-opening in October, Leeds Art Gallery commissioned this wall painting, titled Xanadu. The painting covers most of the wall space of the Victorian Staircase and my intention was to turn the physical experience of going up and down the stairs into an exciting visual experience like walking through a three dimensional painting. Staircases provide the veins of a building, immersing the visitor spatially in a different way to that of the traditional gallery space. I am interested in how an artwork can be experienced by one’s whole body, the image changing constantly as one moves up or down the stairs. With site-specific wall paintings, I love the fact that they clearly belong to the space, cannot be moved and someone needs to make a trip to the actual location to experience them as long as they exist. Unique to the space and its surrounding, Xanadu’s lifetime is limited. At some point it will get painted over and disappear again making space for new interventions and ideas.
The Cucumber Farmer's House, 2016
I paint in order to preserve the essence of memories. My paintings are objects that allow one to step back inside a moment in time. They provide proof of existence.
I painted The Cucumber Farmer’s House last July after living in Sunderland, Massachusetts for a month. I stayed in a very special home that had belonged to a family for three generations. It rested on a hill above a valley and across from that valley you could see Mount Sugarloaf.
We would sit on the back deck each night and watch the sunset over the river and hills waiting for the golden-hour fox to emerge. Sometimes we left him ears of corn to beckon him.
I weeded the walkway, moved succulents that scattered the front yard to a flowerbed so they could live together. He painted the door to the basement silver.
In the guest room, in a glass jar, there was a single pickle, still souring in vinegar, a symbol left over from the cucumber farmer.
He brought me a buttercup because it spoke to him. I pressed it in the pages of my sketchbook to keep the way I knew to press these colours into paper.
Luke Edward Hall
I did this very quick sketch of Duncan in the summer of 2016 whilst we were in Tuscany, staying with our best friend Haeni and her husband Mike. At the time Haeni and Mike were engaged and we were in Tuscany staying at Mike’s family home where the couple got married this summer. We were all there ostensibly to ‘check the weather’ and do some local snooping in preparation for the wedding a year later, but really we just fancied a holiday. I remember spending an afternoon sat outside the house, which sits on top of a hill, surrounded by lavender.
I had a good supply of Campari and soda, my sketchbook and some charcoal and enjoyed a good few hours drawing the house, the incredible view and occasionally Duncan, when he’d sit still long enough. I did a lot of these very quick sketches and this was my favourite. Later in 2016 I worked on a project with Christie’s and this sketch ended up being included in a sale which was exciting for me. This, combined with those hazy Tuscan memories means this simple sketch holds a rather special place in my heart.
Nothing Left to Make, 2013
Some time in 2008 I decided to teach myself to carve – well, more accurately to whittle – after inheriting some edge tools, buying some knives and using raw material cut from the small woodland behind my home in South East London.
It seemed right for the time to use an obdurate material such as wood, as its biological processes at the cellular level—growing, breathing, decaying—are universal metaphors for human existence. Big theme, small works!
The nature of wood in handling it, working it, persuading it by force into your desired form, felt comfortingly elemental at the time and still does. Pick up a stick and whittle it into something. In the lexicon of human creativity, it’s pretty basic, stripped back, and I like that. This piece from 2013, Nothing Left to Make, is my favourite continuously carved (Lime wood) chain.
If it’s a question, and I’m not saying that it is, why not ask it in the form of an object?
Adam Dant : Chinese Artist, 2014
When property developers whacked up an utterly hideous 295 ft cheaply clad monstrosity across the road from my house and called it 'Avant Garde Tower' I realised that the world of art and ideas had changed and that it was time to write another manifesto.
The manifesto, Adam Dant: Chinese Artist, is both a carefully calculated reaction to the culture of appropriation and a presentation of a genuinely new method by which all artists can create a new art that, if it did appeal to the kind of fat-head who christens their awful 'development' within a trope of revolution and social change, would appeal for all the wrong reasons. These paintings from the on-going project 'Adam Dant: Chinese Artist' have been produced according to the tenets of the manifesto.