Barry Reigate: Drawings

30 April - 30 May 2020

‘Then, as I set the burglar alarm, I realised that I could change the course of my life by a single action. To shut out the world, and solve all my difficulties at a stroke, I had the simplest of weapons - my own front door. I needed only to close it, and decide never to leave my house again’

In J.G. Ballard's short story The Enormous Space, Ballantyne, a regular man one day decides he will no longer go to work, but rather live within the confines of his house. As the outside world becomes a distant memory, his inner world expands. The dimensions of the house seems to physically grow as he descends deeper into his own mind, leaving his body small and insignificant, he confines himself to a single room, mattress on the floor with the security of those four walls to envelop him.

Drawing is an act which has long been associated with solitude, perhaps due to an intimacy of scale, the direct transference of action from wrist to pencil or its proprietary nature. Unlike relatives painting and sculpture, drawing doesn’t demand much: just you, a surface and your weapon of choice, to be held between thumb and index finger. Drawing is an early stage of human learning picked up as motor skills are grasped: crayola in hand, “try to keep the marks within the confines of the paper”. Failing that, keep the magic sponge within reach.

Barry Reigate’s drawings come from such a place. The front door is shut. There are no fixed agendas or concepts at play, just a pencil and a space for subconscious rambling to spill onto the page. The making of each A3 page contains a lifetime's worth of G**gle search histories of influences from The Lascaux Caves to Big Daddy Roth and Jim Phillips’ slacker art, graphic design, Mike Kelley drawings and 70’s rock posters.

200gsm off-white paper is centred on a rough-cut plywood board, saturated from a few sweeping flicks of a heavy set brush applying a clear wash of London tap water.

Right now isn’t the time to be having large industrial sized sculpture prefabricating. Right now we have ourselves and all those things we’ve picked up and continue to carry with us, even if they’re hidden deep within the recesses of our thoughts. Magritte’s much maligned ‘vache period’ between 1947-48 saw him work on a number of paintings which shared garish tones and grotesque caricatured subject matter exhibited rapidly and casually. It’s hard to look at these works and not see them as a reaction to the uncertainty and chaos of the post-war period.

2” wide gum tape tautly hovers over the long side of the wet paper extending just beyond its 42cm length. The gumminess of the tape catches on anything it touches before being committed to board and paper, bridging the two, and smeared smooth. The paper takes on a new state, temporarily immune from dog-ears and mishandling.

30 drawings are hung in the gallery, the doors are locked, the lights are off, no one is coming. The works were made in solitude and though now hanging in the gallery, they remain in solitude. They seem to have been put in some sort of order, hung over white paper and cork in a effort to elevate them; a single row wraps around the gallery’s four freshly-painted walls. Do we need the physical presence of a viewer in the space to activate these works? Or has that been achieved in freeing them from their maker's hand, no longer stacked in a pile on a desk but in the midway point in their journey quietly awaiting, if they’re lucky, a golden ticket to a better place, one where they can live out their days behind the best-money-can-buy Water White Museum Glass ©

Thought should also be spared for the artist who is, at least for now, free of these thoughts… that is until he feels inspiration rear its head once again.