The graphic art of con­fess­ing in pub­lic

Anew­showlook­satwhathap­penswhen­wepu­tour­mostin­ti­matethought­sup­for­pub­lic­consump­tion.By ArielKahn

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS 39 -

IN A CUL­TURAL cli­mate fas­ci­nated by the private self, ob­sessed with celebrity ex­posés, and in­un­dated with the daily rev­e­la­tions of count­less blog­gers, we are rarely pro­vided with the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on what hap­pens when we put in­ti­mate in­for­ma­tion about our­selves into the pub­lic sphere. This week, the Cen­tre for Re­cent Draw­ing in Lon­don presents Diary Draw­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion cu­rated by Sarah Light­man, which brings to­gether vis­ual jour­nals and au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal graphic nov­els to ex­am­ine how draw­ing can be used to doc­u­ment in­ti­mate and in­di­vid­ual his­to­ries to a pub­lic au­di­ence.

Light­man ac­knowl­edges that an ex­hi­bi­tion of diary draw­ing “is pretty con­tra­dic­tory. Di­aries are private — an ex­hi­bi­tion is an ex­posé. Of­ten what is writ­ten in a diary could be that which one might think twice about say­ing or show­ing in pub­lic — which makes them both fas­ci­nat­ing and some­what dan­ger­ous.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion has taken Light­man, a for­mer Young Jewish Artist Award win­ner, two years to pre­pare, and it show­cases a di­verse in­ter­na­tional body of work.

Ariel Schrag’s daily comic diary was writ­ten while study­ing abroad in Ber­lin.

Light­man’s own draw­ings re­port scenes of her ev­ery­day life, in­clud­ing a view of her ro­man­tic dis­ap­point­ments.

Re­becca Swindell’s del­i­cate cig­a­rette-pa­per draw­ings have con­fes­sional ti­tles like Af­ter The Dolls House Was Burnt.

In Lucky 1, Gabrielle Bell draws a night out and what hap­pens. Lady Lucy uses a slide-film for­mat to re­play her diary draw­ings. Miriam Katin’s graphic novel tells the story of her child­hood in Europe un­der the Nazis, and cel­e­brated Is­raeli graphic nov­el­ist Rutu Mo­dan presents a diary that orig­i­nally ap­peared in the New York Times.

There are bril­liantly drawn ex­tracts from Mio Mat­sumoto’s diary of the five months she spends in treat­ment for can­cer (which is be­ing pub­lished this month by Jonathan Cape un­der the ti­tle My Diary).

The ex­hi­bi­tion sug­gests that what we think of as our most private ex­pe­ri­ences are ac­tu­ally uni­ver­sal.

Light­man says: “Rutu might be Jewish, but I think what she is de­scrib­ing — fam­ily dy­nam­ics, ten­sions and re­ac­tions — could be about any­one. That is what is won­der­ful about di­aries. They show us how sim­i­lar we all are, even in the ut­most pri­vacy of our sketch­books.

“Miriam Katin’s work is about the Holo­caust, yet the scene she is ex­hibit­ing, about her par­ents re­unit­ing af­ter the war, is about how she, the child, felt. In a way it epit­o­mises a real mo­ment of diary writ­ing, when you feel alone, things trans­form­ing into your own nar­ra­tive.

“Her book is called We Are On Our Own. This ap­plies to much of the work in the show, be­cause it is when we are alone, our fears and demons ap­pear and we need to draw them out, lit­er­ally line by line.”

In con­trast, Mo­dan ex­plores the im­pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing alone — the way our sto­ries are shaped by those around us, both in terms of our in­ter­nal, fam­ily his­tory, and those who would seek to mould us in their im­age.

The in­ter­play be­tween im­age and text in her work cap­tures the dance be­tween private and pub­lic selves, and our frus­trat­ing at­tempts to try to bridge them.

Light­man’s own work presents iconic images of com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down in Lon­don. We see what the artist sees, shar­ing her own vi­sion, en­hanced by the emo­tion­ally charged text that ac­com­pa­nies it.

The pat­tern of rep­e­ti­tion in her im- ages sug­gests the ex­tent to which we are trapped in our own sub­jec­tiv­ity, and in pat­terns of be­hav­iour, open­ing up ques­tions as to how far we are in con­trol of our own lives.

This per­sonal process is re­flected in the di­verse re­la­tion­ships the fea­tured artists have with their di­aries. For David Blandy, a diary is a quest, full of sur­prises.

“I al­ways find that the act of writ­ing helped to clar­ify sit­u­a­tions in my head,” he says, “of­ten lead­ing to a con­clu­sion that I don’t think I would have come to oth­er­wise.”

The sense of art as a jour­ney is also re­flected in Oliver East’s approach: “The act of go­ing on a se­ries of walks, where the choice of route is taken out of your hands, some­times for eight hours at a time, will pro­duce mo­ments of hon­esty or clar­ity from the artist. I try to be as con­scious as I can of what I’m think­ing along the route, and it all goes into the books.

“I’ve got to get you as ex­cited about the small things I no­tice here and there, as I am.” Diary Draw­ing is at the The Cen­tre for Re­cent Draw­ing, 2-4 High­bury Sta­tion Road, Lon­don N1 un­til May 23 (020 3239 6836)

clock­wise from main pic­ture)

Her­mit Diary;

Diary Draw­ings fea­tures vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tions of private lives: ( David Blandy’s Re­becca Swindell’s del­i­cate cig­a­rette-pa­per draw­ings; and Dumped be­fore Valen­tine’s 2, by Sarah Light­man. The ex­hi­bi­tion also dis­plays work by Is­raeli graphic artist Rutu Mo­dan and Miriam Katin’s graphic novel about grow­ing up in Nazi Europe

Cu­ra­torSarahLight­mansaysher ex­hi­bi­tio­nis“pret­ty­con­tra­dic­tory”

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