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Thu 31 Oct 2019
Donna Huddleston: ‘The Exhausted Student’
28 November 2019 – 1 March 2020
Private View Wednesday 27 September, 6.30-8.30pm
In her first solo exhibition in a UK public gallery, Donna Huddleston presents a new body of work. Intensely imagined and exquisitely wrought, her suite of commissioned coloured pencil drawings explores her biography, including episodes from her upbringing in Australia, as well as the relationships between theatre and visual art.
The gallery takes on the transformative condition of a stage set through subtle alterations to the architecture and lighting. An impressive large-scale drawing borrows the composition of Raphael’s ‘The Deposition’; Huddleston’s exhausted female student creates a contemporary exploration of labour, faith and exhaustion.The artist studied theatre design in her native Australia, and the works and ‘props’ in the exhibition build a portrait of the demanding life of a student of theatre design, for whom the technical creation of theatrical illusion becomes itself a form of theatre. Other drawings in the exhibition depict an actress in reptilian costume, an architectural blueprint and fragments of architecture and figures.
Together these disparate elements create an atmosphere of restraint and mystery that alludes to the themes of mental breakdown, fatigue and lethargy in the plays of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Anton Chekov.
Huddleston works with coloured pencils in transparent layers, whilst light cast through a textured perspex doorway adds a sense of the theatrical. Fabric panels soften the space and together with sculptural elements and scents, the artist creates a palpable texture, a space in which to share her memory of altered states provoked by extreme fatigue.
The hours were long, the regime was brutal…
The students of theatre design were, it transpired, supposed to suffer. To
collude with a culture of professional crises.
The world of the theatre, of actors and acting - of the production - was
heady and strange. Small wonder that Tennessee Williams said that his
female characters – “a woman, an important, powerful woman” – were
announced by the arrival of a fog in his subconscious; and this fog came
with the pungent smell of radiators hissing and clanking and rattling in
rooms where he wrote, dreamed, fucked, starved and prayed, in New
Orleans and St Louis and New York.
The watercolours and character sketches she touted around the hotels,
waiting for her father – the oldest living poet – to ﬁnish his ﬁnal poem.
The student took it all in. Took in the all-nighters, too; got jaundiced.
Swore she saw her tutor turn into a lizard.
As a child at the convent school in Sydney, the student had noticed that
the Eternal Flame had gone out – was scolded by a nun for asking why.
“That created a gap.” she said, later.
“Yes, thanks and all praise.”
“So that one of God’s creatures could scramble home, safe and free. A little act of grace, honey.”
“I can make it downhill but not back up.”
“I’ll get you back up the hill.”
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Notes to Editors
About the artist:
Donna Huddleston studied Theatre Design at The National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney, Australia (1997) and Fine Art at The National Art School, Sydney Australia (1994). She has exhibited work in the following exhibitions: Charles Asprey/TyersSt, London – ‘Transitional Drawing’ (2019); Stephen Friedman, London – ‘Out of This World’ (2019); White Cube, London – ‘Dreamers Awake’ (2017); Camden Arts Centre, London – ‘Making and Unmaking’ (2016); KateMacgarry, London - ‘Show Window’ (2016); IsabellaBortolozzi, Berlin – ‘Interstellar’ (2015); Drawing Room, London – ‘Witch Dance’ Performance (2013)
About Drawing Room:
Drawing Roomis Europe’s leading gallery for contemporary drawing. It is renowned for stimulating debate around the nature and purpose of drawing today. Through free exhibitions, artist’s talks, practical workshops and a unique library for international contemporary drawing, the gallery aims to nurture the production of drawings and promote understanding of them. Contemporary works are exhibited alongside key historical examples to suggest drawing’s long tradition and role in artistic innovation. Drawing Room’s research and exhibitions are shown at major institutions throughout the UK and abroad.