Drawing at a Distance is a drawing project involving ActionSpace Studio Artist Thomas Owen and Artist Facilitator Pia Bramley that began as a way of developing ideas for a participatory workshop as part of the British Museum’s Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation: Access and Education Project. The workshop was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Pia and Tom decided to continue drawing together via Zoom video calls as a way of staying in touch during the lockdown period.
Tom has a distinct visual language in which he surveys details to build up complexly layered images that explore what is happening around him, things that interest him and how he feels. He often uses books as reference for his drawings, so focusing on Tom’s interest in horses Pia sourced a printed catalogue of the British Museum’s ‘The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot’ exhibition in 2012 Pia ordered two copies, one for Tom and one for herself, which meant they could both work from the same source material and draw side by side. This physical connectivity of the book over digital video calls provided a means of continuing the processes of communication between the artist and facilitator that is so important in our studio sessions.
Using the catalogue as a staring point, Tom and Pia decide on an image to look at which they discuss and then begin to draw from adding in images from their imagination or reoccurring motifs such as drawings of clothing in Tom’s artworks. Tom has particularly enjoyed looking at images of knights in armour and has created imaginative interpretations of Van Dyck paintings from the catalogue.
Tom’s detailed, fragmented compositions reflect his process of seeing images, often noticing a tiny part of an artwork or photograph that it would be easy to overlook. A subtle detail might inspire many works to follow. Creating composite drawings by taking an element from the photograph (such as a sword across the body) and fusing this with imaginative elements, Tom’s drawings create an expanded view of a particular subject and invite us to look closer at the overlooked.
“There is something peaceful about two people drawing together, even if they are a few hundred miles apart.” – Pia Bramley
Pia and Tom also have been enjoying moments to sing together including songs by Simon and Garfunkel, Roxy Music and The Beatles whilst they are drawing.
“The sound of Tom’s pens on the paper is lovely- and the mystery of what’s happening on the page as I can only see his face”- Pia Bramley
Images: Thomas Owen showing his drawings via video call and images from the British Museum exhibition catalogue.