Draw to escape.
Draw to put it on the fridge.
Draw to distract ourselves.
Draw to study.
Draw for therapy.
Draw me like one of your French girls.
Drawing you back in.
Draw to make a birthday card.
Draw to get through a long train journey.
Draw to win drunk Pictionary.
Drawing out a story.
Drawing to a close.
Draw to look.
She has a quiet smile.
Everything about Hannah Sullivan’s one-on-one participatory show is quiet. The hushed tones of the art gallery, where we sit facing each other. The sunlight rolling over us. The whispered instructions. The blink of an eye. The fabric rolled over the desk.
After a while, the gentle tracing of our pens on paper.
Her lips are creased, as is her shirt. Her hair tufts over her forehead, up and out in different directions. Her skin is bright and her features defined. You look as her eyes are closed. Her shoulders roll forwards slightly and she leans on the old desk. The wooden legs aren’t quite even so when one of you leans on it, the desk shifts slightly. In the silence and stillness, every alteration is noticed.
Sullivan’s piece is infinitely delicate. It is a snatched moment, a secret shared between you for fifteen minutes. It offers an opportunity to examine, and to focus on nothing but this little bubble of calm.
Drawing without looking at the paper is a common exercise in art classes, less so in performance. It is designed to rid you of your inhibitions. When there is no pressure or expectation on the result being perfect, you tend to loosen up with the pen. Here, it’s a little bit different.
In the middle of the Royal West of England Academy, you are a spectacle. As you study each other’s faces, your eyes lifted from the paper, you become an artwork yourselves. Someone walks around the gallery. You don’t notice them. You are too busy drawing. You are disconnected from everything else. You pick up a pen, and it all disappears.
You finish drawing. Eyes close again. More whispered instructions. The chair pushing back disturbs the quiet. You pause and look again. The curve of the ear. The shape of the eyelid. The creased lips and shirt. You look up, the brightness a little surprising.
You follow the instructions. You feel a buzz as you see it, you feel a bit proud. This little gesture. This thank you. This silent invitation to keep drawing.
Draw To Look was at the Royal West of England Academy until May 7th. For more details, and future dates, click here.