Sight Lines :: Fiona Robinson, Mary Judge

Fiona Robinson    There and Back,    Acrylic, Oil, Charcoal on Canvas, 2006: 90x70cms

These two artists, with very different relationships to process and technique, embrace a common manifestation of life through line and place; a profound grounding of humanity, time, memory and personal histories.

Fiona Robinson
Fiona Robinson is an artist living and working in Weymouth - Dorset, England, a seaport village 140 miles southeast of London, and 140 miles northwest of Cornwall.  Several years ago, we connected through the Drawing Research Network, an organization based in the UK, comprised of individuals and institutions who are in some way involved in the research of drawing.  We began a professional dialogue across these many miles which has resulted in a deep, professional respect, and developed into a wonderful friendship.

Fiona Robinson      Circular Walk 6, from The Journey Sequence, Pencil on Paper, 2007: 70x50cms

"The Circular Walk series refers to a walk accompanying a fellow artist on a route of her choice across the moor land of West Penwith between the parishes of Morvah and Madron. We started near Bosullow, walked up and over Watch Croft, joined the footpath to Nine Maidens Stone Circle, more accurately, the Boskednan Stone Circle and back to the beginning. Walking around stone circles within a circular walk became a series of circles within circles. Between the beginning and the end there is only uncertainty, explores the idea that nothing repeated can ever be the same. Any journey, however great, however small, has two certainties, a beginning and an end; it is what happens in between that has potential."

Fiona's abstract drawing sequences are conceptual journeyings through chosen and intimately felt landscape.  They become collective records of experience pertaining to time and space, physical meanderings and memory.  Her soft tonal surfaces, on paper and canvas, are saturated with layer upon layer of spontaneous line traversing the flat 2-dimensional plane in fits and stops of transition -sometimes smooth yet often broken, only to resume its liminal pace again, renewed, perhaps, by possibilities of destination and of return.

Fiona Robinson    Journey Sequence 2007 installation , New Greenham Arts, UK

In 2007, Fiona won the University of Bath Painting Prize, UK, and was a Prizewinner at the 4th International Drawing Biennale, Melbourne, Australia.  She is also a recipient of the Proof Magazine Brabcombe Award, UK and the Indigo Arts Prize, Liverpool, UK.  She has been an invited artist at the International Drawing Biennale in Kosovo 2008, and was selected for the the Vth International Drawing Biennale, Pilsen 2006, Czech Republic. Recent shows include Lineweight at TSU Art Gallery, Missouri USA; Drawing Room II, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol UK; Transition at Rougemont Castle Exeter, UK and the Oxo Tower, London, UK.  She has been awarded residencies at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall, UK; The Cill Rialaig Project, Co. Kerry, Ireland; and is a 2010 Recipient of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation Fellowship Award, Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Fiona Robinson      Opposite Ends of a Possible Path,       Oil, Charcoal on Canvas, 2002: 122x154cms: University of Bath Collection

"Opposite Ends of a Possible Path became about possibilities. A record of the memory of a walk over the hills above Upwey near Weymouth, it had been done many times but the painting specifically acknowledges that each time it is different. The lines are infinite variations of the route taken, preserved in a film of paint. It is about how memory fades as time elapses. In the painting the physicality of the line pales becoming a distant echo of earlier layers. Because of the organisation of space within the painting the route appears to change as the viewers move from one position to another. The work embraces the idea of mutability and variation. In it’s combining of paint and charcoal it deliberately overlaps the techniques of painting and drawing."

Fiona's drawings have been referred to as "documentary movement within interpretive space", "investigative, emotional topography" and "collective geographical meanderings".  To me, they are elegant drawings of a heartfelt life and brilliant mind.  The marks are exquisitely sensitive and deftly rendered.  I am lucky enough to own one myself.

In her own words:

"My work is about journeys and memory; journeys through spaces, through time and through memory. They are rooted in place but often exist only in memory. My father was born in Cork in Ireland in 1913 and one of his earliest memories, probably before 1920, was being taken to Kerry on the back of a cart to a family wake. The journey took three days, some of it on unmade roads, through a landscape that was wild and inhospitable. In 2008 I travelled to Kerry, to take up a residency as part of the Cill Rialaig Project in the Ballinskelligs. The roads are better now but it is still a wild landscape. The restored buildings of Cill Rialaig were once home to the family of Séan Ó’Connail, an illiterate Irish-speaking storyteller who was part of the oral tradition. He never left this peninsular but in retelling the stories brought to him by other travellers he journeyed, in his imagination, further than many people do in reality.

Fiona Robinson     A Love Affair with the Irish Landscape: From Ballinskelligs Beach to Bolus Head     Triptych, Pencil on Paper, 200x340cms, 2009

A Love Affair with the Irish Landscape follows a remembered journey from the ruins of an ancient abbey, sitting perilously close to the encroaching sea, on Ballinkelligs beach, along winding lanes, past Cill Rialaig up to the top of Bolus Head. From this vantage point you can see the Skelligs, two outcrops of rock eight miles out to sea, on one of which is the remains of a sixth century monastery. The monks who lived there then were living on the edge of the known world, looking out over the Atlantic they were staring into the abyss. Each retelling of a story, each repeated journey, each new layer of drawing is different.  This work is part of a continuum connecting me to the memories of all those other journeys through these spaces."

Fiona Robinson   Transition 3  (detail)   Drawing 5. 180 x 120 cm pencil on paper   2009  

"Curated jointly by Exeter Artspace and Rita Parente of submit2gravity London, this project is in response to the prison cells underneath Rougemont Castle in Exeter. My drawings  were installed in the holding cells under the castle which measure 6′ x 3′ and are a response to the space, or lack of it, to the marking of time, the lack of natural light and the echoing sound."

"I walk in the hills, across moors and along the borders of the sea. I drive through the landscape, take train journeys through derelict backwaters and trudge the pavements of cities. I plot these journeys in my mind and in my daydreams remembering them as real things but drawing them with my mind’s eye."

Fiona Robinson     Studio at Weymouth, Dorset, UK

"The works on paper, with the marks rubbed back and laid bare, have a quietness about them, imparted by the apparent fragility of the pencil line, but the line also has a tensile strength that is insistent. The images stay in the mind. The generosity of scale of the canvases allows the lines to flow within the layers of paint imbuing them with a lyricism that suggests reverie. The process involves adjusting the memory, adjusting the line, allowing the formal requirements of the piece to take over from the initial free mark making, and then redrawing the route.  Finally some parts of the image achieve a greater significance whilst preserving the faintest marks so that they stay in the mind like an unrecalled memory.  Each piece of work records the progress of the drawing as well as tracing the route of the original walk.  They are a sequence of remembering and forgetting."

Mary Judge

I've been so fortunate to know Mary Judge, and her seductively intimate drawings and sculpture. We met in New York in 2008 at the opening of my first large painting exhibit at the  OK Harris Gallery in Manhattan.   Mary creates abstract drawings on paper, canvas, stone and poured concrete forms.

Mary Judge       Trebisonda Spazio per l'Arte Contemporanea, Perugia Italy 2002

"This former school in Perugia Italy provided a completely neutral environment and I proposed a stark, open presentation of works. Here one can see two spolvero drawings made directly on the wall, and a concrete floor piece."

 She uses a traditional Italian copying techinique of spolvero, or dusting, to build line and hue with dry pigment, imparting an earthy and primitive essence to her conceptual surfaces and shapes.

 Mary Judge    Exotic Hex Series   

"These were inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. Here a single design form is rotated around the center point of a circle. Size of works: 36x36".
She has worked also with Wildwood Press, creating amazing relief and photo litho prints on handmade paper.  I am continually moved by the depth and sensitivity of this work - her mark, her materials, her process.

Mary Judge  at Wildwood Press,

Mary is an Associate Professor of Art at Parson's School of Visual Arts.  She is represented by Gallery Joe in Philadelphia, Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn and Dieu Donne Papermill in New York.  She is the recipient of a Dieu Donne Papermill Workspace Grant; NEA Mid Atlantic Foundation for the Arts Grant Works on Paper; Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant; and New Jersey Council on the Arts Individual Artist's Grant. She has also been awarded residencies at Concrete Laboratory Samsoe, Denmark; Valparaiso Foundation for the Art, Mojacar, Spain; Fondazione Marguerita Arp and Tel Aviv Artists Studios.  Her work is included in collections here and abroad including The Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The British Museum, London, England; and the Neburger Bauman Collection.

Mary Judge   at Wildwood Press 

In her own words:
"The drawn image is a beginning - a first attempt that can be tentative and impulsive. The fragility of paper, the medium's usual support, and the visible tracks of the artist's hand combine to create a privileged space occupied by no other medium. More immediate and less controlled than in painting or sculpture, the artist's marks are fully exposed in drawing.

Mary Judge     Spazio Dinamico, San Guilano Terme & Villa Undulna, Pisa Italy 2005

"Works displayed includes spolvero drawings on panel, canvas and Carrara marble chosen by the artist on site at a local quarry. The largest piece was trucked down and placed outside the gallery. I worked over the surfaces of the various pieces using a black powdered pigment with various stencils. The second part of the show took place at the Spa, Villa Undulna, where we placed several pieces outdoors and also hung a group of small drawings."

During the 1960s and 1970s, artists began to push these definitions, and for many, including Robert Morris, Dorothea Rockborne, Nancy Spero, and most notably Sol LeWitt, drawing became the medium within which many of their conceptual investigations materialized.

Mary Judge   Metaphor Contemporary Art, New York NY 2005

"The high ceilings, great light and concrete floor inspired me to propose a large-scale cast concrete sculpture, my first made in the US, which was sold to a major collection. Also included were works on paper and canvas and panel. "

Shifts in scale and new techniques also changed the environment for presentation and in turn helped elevate the status of the medium within the institutions of the art world.

Mary Judge      Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield CT, June-Sept 2007

"Smaller cast concrete sculptures were placed throughout the space, both inside on two different levels and in the exterior. The interior gallery space included relief prints and spolvero drawings and outside this gallery I created a site specific spolvero drawing for the corridor wall, creating a dialogue between interior and exterior spaces and works."

Proportion is something natural that the body feels: it is part of our survival mechanism. Every cell in the body feels it, sensing rightness and harmony.  I think everyone has this sense of natural proportion, which for an artist can be reinforced through drawing. Through the drawing process, specifically figure drawing, one develops a rhythm, things fall together, links are created - something between the body, perception and the mind - everything becomes fluently connected.   

Mary Judge   at Wildwood Press  
 "....when I was very young, I began to actively draw on my own. Like so many young girls, I was always drawing horses, I was in love with horses. This desire manifested itself in countless drawings. The object of desire was the subject.  I also learned from 'how to draw' books, the kind where organic and geometric shapes add one to another to make up an image.  There is a connection with those geometric shapes and proportion.

Another part of understanding measure and proportion is cultural exposure to a wide range of objects greatly made: cathedrals, temples, piazzas.  In architectural structures, proportion can be experienced very purely.  The memory of this exposure becomes embedded internally by the body and senses, ultimately manifest in subsequent creative endeavors.  Art is a very strong and internal presence.

"The Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany is a good example.   A great force appears to thrust upward from underground, emerging directly from the earth.  The cathedral emanates a dazzling quality of texture and repetitive spires which won't let you go!  It resembles an exotic crystal formation: one imagines those spires piercing the earth's crust on its journey from the underworld.  This duality of expression of the upper and under worlds is a manifestation of the spiritual desires of those who built it.  In a way, everything is encapsulated in it all at once: wonder, fear, and hope."

New Art TV Studio Visit with Mary Judge



S.A. said...

Wonderful post Kate!

Thanks for introducing us to Fiona Robinson's drawings -- I love Opposite Ends of a Possible Path -- great drawing and great title.

Coincidentally, I've just invited Mary Judge to speak at Marywood U. -- she's coming on October 8, and I look forward to meeting her. Her work is magnificent in conception and execution.

lisa said...

I wasn't familiar with either artist.Wonderful work-thanks

Kate Beck said...

Thanks to you both!
Steven -- nice re: Mary, she'll be great -- did you watch the NewSrt video ?? And again, thanks for sharing Goncalo's new work -- I love those paintings. It's coincidental that we're both writing about cherts/freinds from afar - nice! I'll post a link to your review here!

Sky Pape said...

Greetings, Kate. I was directed to your blog through a google alert I'd set up for "abstract drawing," and what a find it is! Thank you for this most recent, detailed post on two wonderful artists. I was superficially aware of Mary Judge's work (and an admirer of it), but this broadens my appreciation immeasurably. The pairing with Fiona Robinson I found apt and thought provoking. Thank you for introducing me to her work. Also, it is a real pleasure to discover your own work. As a fellow "drawer," this is right up my alley. Landing here made my day!

Kate Beck said...

So pleased this has made an impression Sky -- pass it along...


Sky Pape said...

Indeed, I already have! I tweeted about your blog already, encouraging others to visit and soak up more about what drawing is about.

Kate Beck said...

and I'll return the favor by posting your own!

Julie Gross said...

Wonderful post, Kate.
I love Mary's work, and it's
always a pleasure to see it,
and to hear her words about it.
Julie Gross, NYC

Karen Schifano said...

So much space and breath in the work of both artists - I felt better in my body just looking at them on the computer screen. Hope to someday see the actual drawings, and yours as well, Kate. Thanks for this!

Stephanie Clayton said...

this is excellent. their work is so meditative and rich in content. i'd never heard of either artist, but i've done a search to find out more. glad to have found your post on these two.