Artist Gary Lawrence wins The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017

Artist Gary Lawrence wins The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017

Posted by Cass Art on 19th Oct 2017

Selected from original drawings, the Jerwood Drawing Prize is the largest and longest-running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK. It has established a reputation for its commitment to championing excellence, and to promoting and celebrating the breadth of contemporary drawing practice. The exhibition provides a platform to showcase the work of UK-based drawing practitioners, from student to established, and as a project helps to define a wider understanding of the role and value of drawing in creative practice. The prestigious first prize of £8,000 has been awarded to Gary Lawrence for his monumental drawing Yellow Kalymnos and Fridge Magnets. 

When we asked Gary Lawrence why he chose the colour yellow for his striking depiction of the Greek Island of Kalymnos, his answer was simple, honest, and perhaps, given the technical mastery displayed in the drawing, unexpected:  ‘Yellow is bright, like the Greek light, and apart from anything else, it was sitting there on the shelf.’ 

Yellow Kalymnos and Fridge Magnets took almost a year to create, and this, combined with the consistency of the detail in the 2.5m x 2.5m drawing, convinced us that the artist must have spent just as long - if not longer - planning the piece! Instead, though, the inspiration for the drawing came from an idle wander through a local supermarket and memories of the Greek sunshine, captured in a holiday snapshot pinned to Gary’s wall.

Today, the art world is becoming increasingly digitised – perhaps you managed to see David Hockney at the Tate, a seminal retrospective which included a collection of digital drawings produced on the artist’s iPad, or took note of the piece which won last year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize, a video which explores the process of drawing in a fluid three-dimensional space through the suspension of ink cubes in gelatine. It is interesting, then, that the piece which wins this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize, represents a return to the basics, the bare bones of drawing.

For Gary, the bare bones of drawing is not only the skeleton, but also the flesh, the heart and the soul of his practice. Yellow Kalymnos and Fridge Magnets was created using only three materials: poster paint, PVA glue and felt tip pens (Gary mixed the paint and glue together as a way of priming the canvas.) Similarly, Homage to Anonymous, the piece with which Gary first claimed the Jerwood Drawing Prize six years ago, in 2011, was produced using a packet of ten budget biros and inscribed onto the back of a promotional poster scrounged from a nearby Woolworths store. How to describe Gary’s practice, then? A combination of budget materials and boundless imagination, perhaps?

Finding the right words and phrases to describe Gary’s work is a little easier. Professor Anita Taylor, founding Director of the Jerwood Drawing Prize recalled the moment the drawing was unfurled for the selection panel to view: ‘it was immediately striking, with its intense colour and construction - it was compelling’. Artist and selector Michael Simpson said Gary Lawrence’s drawing was ‘a brilliant evocation of a time capsule; of time squashed in on itself as a topographical romance in retrospect.’ Dr David Dibosa, also on the 2017 panel, felt the piece ‘radiated power’. To this I would add that the way in which the piece plays with perspective, combined with the striking colour and the ironic comments - ‘Athens - never been here’, ‘Cyprus ‘08 ok-ish’, ‘Zante Town – Euro Spar’ - creates a very strong sense of Alice in Wonderland. The viewer is invited to edge up to the drawing and peer through the window that it offers, Alice through the Looking Glass style, into a brightly coloured world which, the closer you look, becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser’.


See the exhibition at the Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, Bankside, London, from 13 September – 22 October 2017.

Find out more about the Jerwood Drawing Prize here.

Image credits: 
Gary Lawrence, Yellow Kalymnos and Fridge Magnets, 250 x 249cm (2017). Photograph: Colin Mills
Gary Lawrence in front of his piece at the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 Private View. Photo © Hydar Dewachi
Gary Lawrence, Homage to Anonymous, which won the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2011.
Gary Lawrence, Santorini Polaroid, exhibited as part of Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015.
Dr David Dibosa presents Gary Lawrence with First Prize at the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 Private View. Photo © Hydar Dewachi