Kenneth Draper RA
© Kenneth Draper 2017 :
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Kenneth Draper transforms small things into worlds, wanting to draw our attention to the huge natural forces behind the existence of even the most inconspicuous plant. That romantic insight has always hovered around his work, and in the new pictures he tries to grasp it and give it a physical, three-
His journey to this point has had a career-
Since his return from London after serious illness at the end of 2004, Draper’s close kinship with the landscape has become more meditative and more expansive. For the time being he has given up working directly from a motif. Instead he revisits spaces where he has already worked, looking intently, absorbing the colour and what he senses as the energy of the place. He may sit in a quarry all day until the light fades, walk along the coast collecting occasional objects thrown up by the tide, spend the day in a boat or snorkelling. Memory has become his sketchpad. By trusting more to memory he allows the whole experience of the landscape to inform him in its many small details and, as he imagines, its grander galactic configuration.
The concentrated effort involved in extracting the essence of this expanding experience has focused his recent choice of subjects. He is more conscious of particular kinds of events that interest him, such as seasons, times of day, weather, the nature of rock and earth, and the plant life dependent on this environment. The emergent work is not about specific locations. Each is a fresh composition around Draper’s overall experience of Menorca, as well as about the emotions that he projects into the landscape. For him, it is these concerns that lift the work beyond the facts of an actual event. “If you’re an artist of place and the feelings about that place, then those feelings are also being created when you’re making the work of art. I don’t want to make a construction or a drawing that reminds the viewer of a place. I want it to be the place. The event is in the picture.” The question he addresses in the studio is, “Where does that event start, and where does it finish?” Since each of his pictures is a continuation of the last, and since each is prompted by different thoughts and feelings, the full experience will only emerge from some sort of summation, which he calls a “total event”. To capture something of it, his tendency is to work on at least three or four pieces at a time, often finishing relatively quickly a set of pictures that he has been working on for a long time.
Although for lengthy periods in Draper’s career his work has concentrated exclusively on either sculpture or painting, drawing continued to form an important part of his practice. Like many artists, he enjoys its immediacy, and has always used the tradition to work out his sculptural ideas directly on paper. All the coloured works on paper, whether in pencil, gouache, or pastel, have this same directness for him, aligning them more closely with drawing than with painting. He sees this integrated and unhierarchical approach to his media, moving between drawing, painting and sculpture, as a way of achieving his ambition to grasp, as he puts it, “the totality of my experience”.
¹ All quotations in the text, unless otherwise referenced, are taken from conversations recorded with the artist in June 2005.
² I am indebted to Dr. Roger White for information on the island’s geology.
NEW WORLDS IN A MENORCAN LANDSCAPE
Eclipsed Labyrinths : 1978
Spring Tide : 1984
Mountain : 1989
Light Through Dark The Fall ) : 1990
Sapling : 2005
Autumn Sacrifice : 2005
Eclipse : 2005
Solid Shadows : 2005
Dark Reef : 2005
Heaven’s Breath : 2005
Silver Moon Golden Light
Intrusion : 2005
Pregonda Light : 2005
Towards Pregonda : 2005
Quarry Celebration : 2005
Broken Stones : 2005