June 15, 2019
A new exhibition highlights opposite views of the artistic tradition
SARAH URWIN JONES
THERE is a long and venerable – if controversial – history of erasure in art. From Renaissance masters rubbing at oils to remove and reapply, to art restorers scraping away “superfluous” layers of paint; from Robert Rauschenberg, who used 40 rubbers to erase a de Kooning drawing in Erased de Kooning in the 1950s to Jonathan Owen’s contemporary Eraser Drawings, artists have long experimented with taking something away to produce something new. The permutations are complex, from simple necessity to a rejection of the past, from the rebuttal of received learning and inheritance to the idea that we can only create something new by studying then rubbing away the old. What is left, if we take everything else away.
In portraiture this is no less relevant. Artist Audrey Grant uses erasure as a key part of her process in working towards a portrait, as shown in this fascinating new exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
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