The Elemental Force of Charcoal: Drawing at the Borough

22 October 2015 – 27 February 2016

“[David Bomberg] really believed that drawing was important because it can help you understand certain things in a way nothing else can … A good draughtsman finds things out by drawing”
Miles Richmond

Drawing is a central element of image making, whatever the medium. David Bomberg was an inspired draughtsman, and drawing formed the foundation of his classes at London South Bank University (then Borough Polytechnic) in the 1940s and 1950s. These classes were attended by a number of young artists including Dennis Creffield, Cliff Holden, Edna Mann, Dorothy Mead and Miles Richmond. Richmond has stated that Bomberg talked mainly about drawing, and held the classical awareness that, “drawing underlies painting as bones underlie the flesh.”[1] It is through drawing that Bomberg fashioned a language of image making capable of both representing and expressing form and mass.

Bomberg’s approach to drawing, and subsequently painting, was a radical turn from the orthodoxy of perspectival drawing practiced in art schools at the time. Rather than drawing which objectified and distanced the subject, students at the Borough were encouraged never to draw at arm’s length, both physically and conceptually. Although commonly used in the life room, in charcoal, Bomberg and his students perhaps found an elemental medium that lent itself to an exploration of visual form that articulated physicality, urgency and sensation.

This selection of drawings from A David Bomberg Legacy – The Sarah Rose Collection and London South Bank University’s art collection demonstrates the strength of the drawings produced by Bomberg and the Borough Group over a considerable period. The works selected range from some of the earliest in A David Bomberg Legacy – The Sarah Rose Collection, Sappers (c.1919) and Unknown (1914) by Bomberg, through to the most recent, Jerusalem Wedding (2009) by Dennis Creffield.

Today, drawing is recognised as an immediate means of notation, as well as a primary practice in its own right. Whilst in residence at Borough Road Gallery between December 2014 and February 2015, artist Susan Sluglett (who considers herself a figurative painter), returned to drawing, using charcoal and ink to make new work inspired by A David Bomberg Legacy – The Sarah Rose Collection.  Following the Gallery’s summer exhibition, which included work made by Sluglett alongside works from A David Bomberg Legacy – The Sarah Rose Collection, this exhibition turns its focus on drawing, which for so many artists, as well as other creative vocations, is a crucial component of their artistic process and practice.

[1] Miles Richmond, 2007, talk given to accompany the exhibition David Bomberg at Boundary Gallery, London

Images: Installation shots © Lisa Drew 2015