drawings: the turner contemporary

Margate’s Turner Contemporary opened in April 2011.  The new landmark gallery is located on the seafront on the same site where the artist JMW Turner stayed when visiting the town and from where he looked out to sea, capturing the skies of Thanet in his watercolours and drawings. 

The gallery is the largest exhibition space in the southeast of England outside of London and since its opening has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. The bold geometric building was designed by the architect David Chipperfield.  The building stands behind Margate’s iconic Droit House, bringing together traditional and modern architecture.

Grace was commissioned by the gallery to document its construction. The drawings and sketches she made focused on the structures and shapes made by the cast concrete and steel structures that form the main fabric of the building, and the opaque white glass that clads its surface.

“The gallery is situated along the harbour wall exposed to the sea mists and, on a stormy day spray from the sea. In the drawings I tried to capture the building’s (and my own!) exposure to the elements especially, in the early stages of the build, and capture the site in different light conditions as it’s form gradually took shape underneath the mass of steel scaffolding.”

Grace had access to the site for a few days a month and with each visit she made numerous  sketchbook studies and took photographs.  In the studio she worked to refine and enlarge the drawings, producing a series of black and white charcoal and graphite drawings, charting the whole construction process.  In addition to the drawings she also made a series of painted glass panels. (These panels can be seen on the Modern Glass page.)

Drawing was an important part of JMW Turner’s life; he carried a sketchbook everywhere, and the commission aimed to highlight the importance of drawing in contemporary practice.

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© 2020 by Grace Ayson