The vast treasure troves of anthropological artifacts, zoological specimens and archaeological objects in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers, Natural History and Ashmolean museums have provided a rich source of inspiration for talented young local artist Isadora Reeves. Over the past three years she has filled stacks of sketchbooks with hundreds of drawings made during her frequent trips to these museums, a selection of which are presented in this exhibition.
The works in Drawn Together reveal Isadora’s direct engagement with her subjects. Using a variety of different media and with a strength and clarity of line she communicates her subjects, and her own witty take on them, using the most economical of means. Filled with vitality, humour and delight, these bold and intuitive drawings bring the static characters, the taxidermal animals, tribal and classical sculptures which inhabit the museums she visits, to life. Bringing the spirit of these other Oxford museums to the Old Fire Station gallery, Isadora’s body of work has a distinctly “Wonderland” feel to it and displays the unique visual vocabulary and highly personal vision that she has developed.
Isadora’s work also gives insight into the process and uses of drawing. The works in this exhibition are not so much finished polished articles, but working documents, made relatively quickly which reflect how drawing can be a way of experiencing and relating to the world around us as well as a means of expressing what, in the process we discover both about our subjects and our own personalities.
Isadora is a self-taught artist (b 1995) whose abstract paintings have been exhibited in the Museum of Everything’s Exhibition 2 at Tate Modern and Crash Haye-on-Wye international arts-fair shows. Isadora also has autism and can be considered an “outsider” artist. However, an important aspect of this exhibition is how drawing has enabled her to form a connection with another artist that transcends her severe communication problems. Encouraged and supported by Oxford based, Slade-trained artist Jaya Mansberger, Isadora initially began visiting the museums as part of an experiment to see if she might start to draw from observation. What began as a casual artistic enquiry has grown over time into a mentoring relationship and a very special friendship.
Included in this exhibition is a series of pictures drawn together by the two artists. The result of taking turns to draw an object in the museum as rapidly as possible, they are rather like a conversational exchange. The joint works say something interesting about the way we perceive and represent subject matter in very diverse ways. They also reflect the mutual admiration and acceptance the two have of each other’s different artistic approaches and styles. Drawn Together demonstrates how self-taught and trained artists can use the creative process as a form of communication through which to exchange ideas, share working methods and learn from one another in mutually inspiring and thought provoking ways.