Graphic Witness show explores links between drawing and protest

The Drawing Room exhibition looks at the power of drawing to record and reflect protest, as well as to produce images that bear witness to social injustice and even the horrors of war

Erik van Lieshout, Untitled, 2014. Charcoal, acrylic and ink on paper, 206 x 150 cm (unframed). Courtesy the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York

Photojournalism, film and, increasingly, social media platforms are established mechanisms for recording protests, bearing witness to controversial events and challenging those in power. But what about drawing? What part could this gentler, slower medium play?

Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2007 (demonstration drawing #78), 2007. Pencil on paper, 24 x 33 cm (framed). Courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin
Nidhal Chamekh, Studying Circles, 2015.Graphite on wood-free paper, 240 x 300 cm. Courtesy Selma Feriani Gallery

A new exhibition at the Drawing Room, a gallery in Bermondsey, south east London, considers the notion of the Graphic Witness – that “drawings can move beyond documentation of man’s inhumanity to man to become active agents in understanding how political ideals are corrupted, and reminders not to stand by, but to act”.

It features a mix of historical and contemporary work as well as new images made for the show. “Drawing is particularly suited to bearing witness as it is a legible medium. To look closely at a drawing is to trace the history of its making and in this sense each drawing acts as its own witness. Graphic Witness looks at the different ways that artists employ drawing to produce evidence of conflict and suffering, commentaries on injustice and as tools to prompt social change,” the gallery says.

Catherine Anyango Grünewald, Live, Moments ago (The Death of Mike Brown, Ferguson, 9.8.14), 2015, film still. Courtesy the artist
Andrea Bowers, Made in U.S.A. (La Raza, Vol. IV, No. 2, December 1968, L.A. cover page), 2015, Graphite on paper, 42.5 x 43 cm. Courtesy the artist and kaufmann repetto, Milano/New York. Photograph by Andrea Rosetti
Andrea Bowers, Fascist Police (Inside Eastside 1968, no.14, pg 7), 2015. Graphite on paper, 62 x 43.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and kaufmann repetto, Milano/New York. Photograph by Andrea Rosetti

Graphic Witness is at Drawing Room, Unit 8 Rich Estate, 46 Willow Walk, London SE1 5SF, from May 18 to July 9. It opens on May 17 with a curator’s tour from 6 to 6:30pm. 

Lorna Simpson, Bed Green (Interrogation Series), 2008. Graphite and ink on paper, 27.94 x 21.59 cm. Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

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