Drawing Blood, Drawing Poison, Drawing Fire - a pre-launch Q&A with the artist, Simon Grennan.
Funded by the Arts Council and led by artist Simon Grennan, ‘Drawing Blood’ is a new collaborative art project that creates a new online exhibition of twenty new, original animated artworks. Hosted by Gladstone’s Library, the online exhibition will also be available at Contemporary Art Space Chester and at Aura libraries in North Wales, including Broughton, Buckley, Mold, Deeside, Holywell, Connah’s Quay and Flint.
The new artworks are inspired by a book Simon found in the Gladstone’s Library collections. Dating from 1878, Gladstone from Judy’s Point of View collects cartoons satirising one of the hot topics of the period – liberal political opinion. As one of the major Liberal politicians, William Ewart Gladstone is often in the firing line of Judy’s cartoonists. In the tradition of political artists everywhere their pens puncture any political pomposity, drawing Gladstone (and others) not as respected statesman but as wobbly juggler, unstable acrobat, indecisive whirligig, pram-pushing lady, and many more.
Ahead of the exhibition’s launch, Simon gave us some exclusive insights into the production process. They’ll be posted on this blog each week: for a full list, please visit the project’s home page: https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/reading-rooms/digital-gladstone/drawing-blood-drawing-poison-drawing-fire
Who can we see in the original drawings?
One of the interesting things about working with historical materials (such as the 1881 book of cartoons), is that the possibilities are limited by what I know, rather than by what an historic reader knew. An 1881 reader knew all about the people in the cartoons, whereas I only recognise a few of them. As a result, the new artwork doesn’t really reveal the past. Rather, it reveals my relationship with the past. For me, there are antagonists and protagonists, as there are in any soap opera. I recognise Gladstone (Liberal) and his allies and his political opposite Disraeli (Conservative) and his allies and others are explicitly named. But finding out who all the people were and what they were doing at the time is the work of historians. It’s an important task, but it has too fine a grain for the new artwork.
Pwy allwn ni ei weld yn y lluniau gwreiddiol?
Un o bethau diddorol am weithio gyda’r deunyddiau hanesyddol hyn (fel llyfr 1881 o gart?ns), yw bod y posibiliadau yn gyfyngedig i’r hyn rwyf yn ei wybod, yn hytrach na beth mae darllenydd hanesyddol yn ei wybod. Roedd darllenwr 1881 yn gwybod y cyfan am y bobl yn y cart?ns, tra rydw i ond yn adnabod ambell un ohonynt. O ganlyniad, nid yw’r gwaith celf newydd yn datgelu’r gorffennol go iawn. Yn hytrach, mae’n dangos fy mherthynas gyda’r gorffennol. I mi, mae yna wrthwynebyddion a phrif gymeriadau, fel sydd yna mewn opera sebon. Rwy’n cydnabod Gladstone (Rhyddfrydwr) a’i gynghreiriaid a’i wrthwynebydd gwleidyddol Disraeli (Ceidwadwr) a’i gynghreiriaid ac eraill yn cael eu henwi’n amlwg. Ond mae canfod pwy oedd yr holl bobl a beth oedden nhw’n ei wneud ar y pryd yn waith hanesyddion. Mae’n dasg bwysig, ond mae’n cynnwys graen rhy fân ar gyfer y gwaith celf newydd.