Wednesday 15 June 2016

My exhibition at Senate House, London: evading the issue

Dr Judith Townend of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, who kindly invited me to exhibit some law-based pictures in Senate House, asks the following:

How did you select the drawings? 

First, they had to go with the tawny Travertine walls. Then I went for variety.


Which ones were created especially for this exhibition?

I'd already drawn a QC in chambers doing an intense yoga routine. I don't own the originals so I framed digital reproductions of two, about half actual size. (These are not to be confused with prints.) This is a terrible sin as such reproductions will always look dull compared with originals, but I wanted the QC's physicality to be part of the show.

Senate House is a mysterious machine. My best discovery there is the magical realm of music and gadgets run by Hannah Thompson, the Leverhulme-funded Senate House Library sound artist in residence (left).

Can you explain a bit more about the rope work?
The exhibition space is a hectic accretion of furniture, recycling bins, red rugs and signage. Framed drawings would have to fight for attention. But how? 
The first thing that caught my eye was jute - upholstery bands trailing from two broken benches. I decided to let jute climb the wall. The tension of the rope would reflect the tension of the courtroom. 

Fred Hatt and Anna Bones of Anatomie Studio kindly installed a taut trail of rope by the most physical group of drawings (the yoga QC and the Naked Rambler). I asked them to incorporate pink legal tape.
My plan was then exploded. I'd thrown such a tantrum about the state of the benches that they were repaired. The power has gone to my head.

What are people’s reactions to your in-court/about law sketching? Do they vary between lawyers or non-lawyers? 
In the public seats of the Supreme Court, reactions fall into these categories:
'Did you draw me?'
'I just love your work.' (Thank you, Dean.)
'Where are the toilets?' 

'Who's going to win?'

Non-lawyers say, 'Your other blog [i.e. this one] is better.'

Are you motivated by the notion of bringing the public more closely into contact with law and legal processes (as I am) or do you have another motive for choosing legal settings/themes? 

I like live drawing (not the same as life drawing) - depicting the passing scene. If you do it in the street, people want to talk to you. Sometimes I'm up for that. But during a court hearing, they can't. Good.
I was once on an after-hours tour of the Old Bailey when some people thought it would be a lark to climb into the dock and giggle a bit. They were solicitors. As I don't have the carapace of legal training, I was shocked - the dock is a numinous space and there but for the grace of God, etcetera - anyone who drives a car, for example, could end up there. Lawyers would dismiss that as sentimentality, but I still think that lawyers and people who administer and design courts have something to gain from reflecting about the legal process. I'm at the finger-painting end of things, though, and easily distracted by appearances. 
My exhibition of drawings, The Body of Law, is on the second floor of Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. It is part of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ public engagement programme, Open until the end of July 2016, Mon-Fri 9am-8.30pm, Sat 9.45am-5.15pm.

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