The Fall MES 2019 – 21 x 29,7cm, pen and laser print on paper. Private collection, London
The following text was written about this drawing by Andrew Renton, 2019
This drawing of the late Mark E Smith of the Fall turned up on my Instagram feed last week at just the moment when I needed it. I’d been working on the thesis that the best drawings mark absences (of image, of place) as much as they make a commitment to witnessing, while grappling with the likes of Rauschenberg’s erased de Kooning drawing and a Kippenberger self-portrait on hotel paper as evidence for this.
David Powell’s drawing touches another nerve in navigating these absences, and it proves just how necessary contemporary drawing can be. It’s about a desire to possess things or capture them when you know the object of your gaze and desire cannot be grasped. It’s about fandom, which is an elevated form of identification, observation and even time travel. What I love about this drawing is that it revisits the familiar, draws upon given images and sources, and reconstitutes them with the subjectivity that only an artist can offer. Derived from a found photograph, sourced from the internet, juxtaposed with the cover of an early Fall single, its exemplary in its lo-fi handmadeness, which is itself about the immediacy of drawing.
These sources, collaged together like the back of your old school notebook insist that such imagery, in a digital age, is perpetually present, and belongs to all of us. A shared knowledge and collective ownership. And what does it mean to copy the already copied?
The artist can’t help his gaze. Not always a preliminary model towards a more fleshed out version, the drawing can also reclaim territory that has long been worked out, over-worked, even, and iconic. It rethinks its origins, putting the viewer back into the frame. It’s almost a readymade and comes with baggage. History brought into the present tense. Drawing, here, as absolute identification, carrying forward an entire backstory or, in this case, back catalogue. It makes me think about what Kierkegaard said about repetition; that it was a kind of recollection forwards. And nothing less than an ethical engagement.
(And perhaps I should mention that the Fall are my favourite band of all time.)