Exhibition Overview: AUDREY GRANT: The Long Look – The Making of a Portrait

“With each session everything has changed although things remain constant. I have to be prepared for an upheaval – to constantly seek to transform” – Audrey Grant

“My work has always been in some way or another about people – sometimes through portraits but also focusing on traces of behaviour – the inadvertent marks people leave behind.” – Norman McBeath

The second I found out about this exhibition I thought it was literally fate that I’d be in Edinburgh on its closing weekend! On first read her processes seemed to be perfectly matching up with what I have been doing and what I want to progress into, with the portraiture.

The process focused on process really.

The exhibition was focused on Grant’s portraits of the photographer Norman McBeath who sat for her on numerous occasions – however there were only 4 final portrait drawings in charcoal – the rest were photographs of the process which took months

The two artists would meet up once or twice a month (which wasn’t always regular) and Grant would draw McBeath for two hours.

At the beginning of each session the [previous] drawing would be erased.

“she began each portrait again with only traces of what was left behind in the paper”


MATERIAL: charcoal on thick paper – which allowed her for so many re-workings

although she erases her drawings whilst I brush them off – so try out erasing my charcoal mark-making to see how clean it leaves the piece of paper.

Her intention centred on the presence of the person rather than their likeness, and therefore it didn’t matter that she kept erasing the drawing –

the process is all about experience and investigating the person’s presence – working on top of traces of their previous behaviour – in some ways conserves a memory of them – their past behaviours – working on top of the traces of the past DOES give it more precision – increases the depth of the investigation of the TRUTH


The process is also very intuitive – especially knowing where to stop after each session and knowing when to stop the drawing in general

“Every possible mark that Audrey could make in representing her sitters is here.”


This was a section that really amazed and interested me – a real life representation of her process – charcoal powder and the tape she used to wrap her fingers – taken out of the time and place of the sitting and into the gallery space – really put her drawing process into perspective and showed the actual importance of each sitting as well as the process in general.

Shows other ways of documenting and recording the drawing and investigation process!!

And also the way she displays her final drawings next to process photographs of them gives people a better perspective on the final drawing – allows people to ‘see’ the drawing – puts into perspective the time of the drawing – allows people to grasp the meaning of the final result

it is something I have received feedback on before – people like the drawings I produce but always emphasise that only after seeing my process videos do they understand the time and the different forms that the drawing underwent before reaching the current stage

maybe I could try displaying the process alongside the final drawing?


Overall, it was incredible to see an exhibition on an artist that works with similar ideas as myself.

The idea that a drawing can be created (and erased) over a long period of time – really puts the pressure off drawing – allows to really ENGAGE and CONNECT with the subject matter – in this case the sitter – and is something I want to continue doing with memories and now the sitter as well

This phenomenological approach is ideal for my intentions of connecting with people and places, to develop and work through my own sense of identity –

the time aspect emphasises the importance of the subject matter

gives space for reverie to occur when not only recalling memories but perhaps also when drawing people from life – allowing a meditative state where associations are allowed to pass through our mind – and although Grant didn’t do it, I would also allow any thought to show through on the paper – so I would not only depict the presence of the subject before me, but also my connection and more of a response to them

gives space to think about and investigate what we are thinking about


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