Sunday, August 1, 2021

Bill Woodrow / Richard Deacon. Ikon Gallery. Birmingham

We Thought About It A Lot, and other shared drawings 15 September — 21 November 2021

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Ikon is pleased to present We Thought About It A Lot, and other shared drawings, a selection of collaborative works by acclaimed British artists Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon. Making “shared sculptures” together since 1990, on this occasion they reveal their “shared drawings” for the first time. Resulting from a process of back-and-forth exchange during 2019-20, they are manifestations of the two artists surprising and responding to each other; sometimes alone whilst making individual contributions, at other times sharing the same space. Drawn gestures, as opposed to sculptural assemblage – capturing thoughts that occur momentarily – they convey a rare smartness and imagination.

Ostensibly two dimensional, these new works become layered through a range of techniques including collage, frottage, and drawing in pencil or pen and ink. Figurative motifs are combined with abstract configurations leading to aesthetic results that are edgily compelling. In SHROUD (2020), a piece of fabric imprinted with the iconic portrait of Che Guevara is cornered by a constellation of contrasting bold, graphic shapes realised in paint, oil stick and graphite. Here, the artistic conversation between Deacon and Woodrow is seemingly evident, whereas other works present more holistic compositions; I CAN’T STAND THE RAIN (2019), for example, is a colourful interplay of paint, collage and ink that covers the entire surface.

The authorship of individual contributions is deliberately not revealed, as Woodrow explains:

… we agreed not to say which bits had been made by which person. People were very adamant that they knew, but, by and large, they were wrong. Richard is predominantly an artist who works in the abstract. My work is generally figurative in some form or other, and what has been interesting is the way that the figurative and abstract, without saying who does what, have come together and produced this sort of third area. And as an exercise it does influence and come back into your own work. Working in a team expands your vocabulary and so now you have extra things you can use.

By working in this way, Woodrow and Deacon are continually absorbing, re-energising each other and reviewing their own artistic practices. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of the works in which hands are seen spelling out the words “we thought about it a lot” in sign language. At once this is a reference to the collaborative process, which the artists describe as one of “total trust”, and a more philosophical tendency, shared. Deacon elaborates on the combined artistic identity found in the works:

I think ‘shared’ makes things threefold, bringing sculpture (or drawing) into the relationship alongside our individual identities. I am very intrigued by our creation of an artist, ‘Woodrow/Deacon’, who has a career and an existence independent of either of us.

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