Curator’s Eye View: Shaun McDowell

Installation view of Save Yourself! at Hannah Barry Gallery, courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Summer is the best time to delve straight into London’s art scene, which is more vibrant than ever. In this special feature we speak to Shaun McDowell, curator of the ongoing Save Yourself! exhibition at Hannah Barry Gallery, and ask him about how drawing is being radically reinvented today.

How do the featured artists fit into the long tradition of drawing? And how do they relate to one another? 

In this show there some modern drawings which display an understanding of classicism but there is no need for the works to fit into the long tradition of drawing at all. The works relate to one another though my vision of what this show should display in an energetic sense - together they make up a spectrum of driven human idiosyncrasies through passion, obsession, desperation, rebellion, compulsion and abandon expressed in the acute manner of drawing.

Why is it important to you to present the works without placing them behind glass? 

I don’t like seeing drawing behind glass – it should be experienced in a naked sense.

Some of the artists, for instance Rose Wylie, are known for their work in other mediums. What appeal do you think drawing holds in comparison to say, painting or sculpture? 

I admire the pure and direct nature of drawing. That “mark” of an artist is very important to see.  If you wish to judge an artist then it is perhaps their line that should be taken as their purest expression.  When comparisons are drawn between artists such as Warhol and Hirst, I believe a creative score can clearly be settled by looking at the merit of each artists drawing. 

The exhibition seems to have a disaffected feeling that at times manifests itself in humour. How does this relate to its title? 

The following train of thought inspired the exhibition title: when individuals preach to others, they are really telling their own story of destruction and salvation. Faced with a day of reckoning or great awakening, an individual may be driven to desperation. In such a situation we might feel as though we are a god looking down at earthlings, laughing at the way humankind attempts anything to avoid inevitable death. 

Save Yourself! is available to view by appointment until 17 August.

Hannah Barry Gallery, 4 Holly Grove, London SE15 5DF

Images courtesy of the artists and the gallery

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