The big glass

10 March 2011

 Ars Moriendi. All photos by Joanna Walsh.
[object Object]

Ars Moriendi. All photos by Joanna Walsh.

Since last week, Joanna Walsh has been creating a large-scale drawing, ‘Ars Moriendi’, on the glass wall in the Wellcome Collection lobby. We asked her what it was like to approach such a vast blank canvas and begin drawing, all in public.

It’s always terrifying to approach a blank page, even more so when it measures around 5 x 12 metres.

The panels of glass in the wall acted like a grid so I could more easily scale up my drawing.

First I sketched out my design in chinagraph.

…before beginning to ink in the drawing.

I’m using Posca paint pens in white. They look striking against the background created by the black curtain drawn behind the glass. They’re semi-permanent. You can wipe over them gently without erasing the lines but if you scrub at them, or use window cleaner, they come off quite easily. I like the fact that this artwork is temporary. It frees me up to not worry so much about making mistakes which, paradoxically, means that I make fewer.

…but, as I’m used to being able to patch over any mistakes on my paper drawings in Photoshop, one of my recurring thoughts is, “Where’s the CTRL+Z for live drawing?”

After a few days the picture is definitely growing…

…which was one of the ideas I wanted to put into the drawing. At Sobell I noticed…

…how the outdoors continued indoors into floral curtains, flower arrangements, wood or laminate flooring and furniture just as…

…the inside of the bodies of patients are somehow extended into tubes and machines, and our…

…concept of what is ‘right’ and ‘natural’ in a body, in a way of living and dying, trembles.

I spent the final days putting in…

textures…

‘mark-making’…

As I’ve been working in situ at the Wellcome Collection, people feel free to come up and talk to me.

So far I’ve heard…

lots of questions about what kinds of pens I’m using…

many confessions about deaths experienced: someone who needed to express her anger about the gaps in her sister-in-law’s care…

theories: a (stunningly beautiful) young Egyptian Moslem who thinks about plans for her own death frequently as she has witnessed ‘so many bad deaths’ and a middle-aged man who is angry with Dylan Thomas’s angry wish to ‘not go gentle into that good night’ and would like more cultural acceptance of ‘ebbing away’…

and reactions from medics – who are usually very positive about what I’m doing, saying that it reflects their own experiences in palliative care. This means a lot to me.

Oh, and…

One question about whether I get enough work and whether I can make a living from what I do. This was so unexpected I somehow felt obliged to answer it.

Joanna will be drawing again at Wellcome Collection this Friday (11 March).