:: Longform Drawings ::

In September 2019, after a period of considerable artistic disillusionment, I went to see the major Keith Haring exhibition at the Tate Liverpool which was held throughout summer and autumn of that year. Haring has long been a foundational influence for my work as an artist and two visits to this show over a single weekend was a profoundly revitalising experience. Among the many brilliant works on display was his 1983 longform illustration 'The Matrix', which moved me very deeply and stunned me as to its sheer size, its world-embracing, almost mythical quality and the striking visual style so characteristic of Haring and which I have always sought to emulate in my own way.

In some ways, this was a return to my roots - some of my first steps as an artist were in the company of prints of Haring's most famous images - and seeing so much of his work up close made me enthusiastic to create art again regardless of what success may or may not come. "Art for fun, damn it!" was the phrase I used a lot that weekend!

Shirtless at Tate Liverpool Sep 2019

One of my passions is to create large artworks - such as The Voice Project, my initiative to create a multi-panel Dual Image visionary mural of the lost mythologies of the Island of Britain - and much of my practice has resulted in a huge number of sketches that I'm often proud of but have never been used for the various projects and series of artworks that I work on. This return to my roots has moved me to start creating longform drawings of my own, in my own vivid style, which strikes me as a great way to bring those old sketches back into my artistic fold while paying homage to an artist who inspires me probably more than any other in recent times.

Keith Haring The Matrix 1983

Keith Haring - 'The Matrix' (1983)
Copyright (c)1997–2019 The Keith Haring Foundation - All Rights Reserved

I've also been looking for a more holistic way to bring dynamics of the Queer into my artwork: so far, my ongoing series The Ecstasy In Me has dealt with my Queer Life in a direct and (homo)sexual way that is somewhat separated from the usual thematic directions in my work.

I therefore decided to start creating a series of monochrome longform drawings - on rolls of heavy matte printer paper - measuring some thirty metres long, suffused with imagery which simultaneously revisits old themes and unused sketches whilst striking out towards the new, through images of contemporary life, homoerotic photography, inner fantasies both light and dark and surreal juxtapositions. The media will be ink & markers on paper, and several different colour schemes - black on white, silver on black, shades of green on white or black paper - are envisaged, while the titles of these illustrations will be as longform as the artworks themselves, to evoke audience-centred narratives in the minds of the viewers.

Chaos Within Study 2019

Chaos Within (Study) - Oct 2019
202cm x 91cm - Ink & Markers on Paper

To this end, in October 2019, I created a study piece - entitled 'Chaos Within' - for the first intended longform artwork, to set up my workflow for this new medium and see how quickly I could produce a two metre illustration of the approximate height of the intended final works. In the end, it took three days of almost constant work, which gives me a good idea of the length of time I will need to devote to each longform drawing. At the time of writing, several creatively-titled longform drawings are envisaged:

- 'Chaos Within The Heart Of The Son Of The Sun Because I Love The Brother Of The Moon', which will enfold homoerotic, psychedelic and surreal imagery to hint at an open narrative of the drama of gay love and sexuality...
- 'And I Fell Headlong Into A Twisting Salvic World', which will return to my days of working with the Mexican entheogenic herb salvia divinorum, and using Salvic Voyager as a start point, enfold many of the sketches and images that have not hitherto entered into my artistic canon, but which form profoundly inspiring fundaments to my life...
- 'The Illustrated Song Of Lucaion', which will take my 2013-14 queer mythical song cycle The Song Of Lucaion, and illustrate it stanza-by-stanza, episode-by-episode in delightful, fernal, visionary detail...
- 'All My Sorrows And All My Fantasies And How I Burned Them And Turned Them Into Joyous Truths', which will be an entirely spontaneous and cathartic artwork enfolded with all my wildest fantasies, from the sexual to the fantastical, the suicidal to the paradisical, the kinky to the holistic.

Chaos Within Study work in progress

Chaos Within (Study) - Oct 2019
Work In Progress

I also intend to produce at least one longform drawing springing purely from a musical composition. Often when I listen to music, particularly the kind of sprawling, offbeat, ambient techno that I have loved since my teens, my mind wanders off into reveries that produce some quite detailed narratives. I intend to approach these in the same manner as a storyboard, except that the imagery will be holistic and enfolded rather than in a format similar to a graphic novel.

I don't particularly intend to exhibit these works - these are going to be "Art for fun, damn it!" - but I have a strong presentation format in mind. I intend to present these longform drawings as short films, in which the camera pans slowly from left to right as if slowly reading a visual text, accompanied only by music which I have composed specifically to complement the artwork. The gallery of these works on my website will thus ultimately be an exhibit of videos rather than images. I am looking forward to embarking on this new, ambitious and fascinating journey that takes me simultaneously back to my roots and forward into who knows where!

Bruce Rimell, November 2019


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