Susan Schwalb & Erika Winstone

November 2015

Tarnished presents the work of these two contrasting artists as they orchestrate permutations of tarnish, lustre and luminosity in a range of new works on paper, canvas, video and installation, confirming this ancient technique as a vital medium in contemporary art.


'Tarnished'  is commonly understood to mean a loss of lustre and thus of value, or even respect. However, in this exhibition Susan Schwalb and Erika Winstone reverse this understanding, as they each cultivate tarnish as a positive quality in their respective practices, drawing with silver, gold, brass, and other metals. These techniques, collectively known as metalpoint, are currently the subject of a major exhibition at The British Museum, Drawing with Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns, which features the work of Susan Schwalb as one of the foremost artists working in silverpoint in America today. The exhibition is accompanied by a definitive catalogue published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which highlights Erika Winstone as an innovative contemporary metalpoint artist working in Britain.


Schwalb's drawings use the classical Renaissance technique of metalpoint in ways that challenge all the traditional concepts. Juxtaposing a wide variety of metals (silver, gold, brass, copper, platinum, pewter, bronze and aluminum) she obtains soft shifts in tone and color reminiscent of the luminous transparency of watercolor. Horizontal lines and tone evoke an atmosphere of serenity, and the shimmer of light on the surface, created by the metals, is quite unlike any of the usual effects of metalpoint. Schwalb has been working within a square format almost exclusively since 1997. An even grid of narrow horizontal lines forms the basic structure of her drawings and paintings. But unlike the work of Agnes Martin, with whom she is often compared, this geometric regularity serves as a spatial context for irregular events on the surface. In recent works, Schwalb creates a counterpoint between fine lines drawn with a stylus and broad swatches of bronze or copper tones.

Winstone presents installations that interlink the elements of her practice: silverpoints, title paintings and video.


The delicacy of metalpoint allows her to work intuitively and repeatedly on paintings, drawing with metal objects or a drill while viewing video. Winstone combines her own footage with that of others, mixing performances by known artists with the as yet unknown. Especially significant has been her daughter Anna who has been a constant muse and collaborator for the past nineteen years, helping her; 'to see through another generation's experience'. Winstone works with gesture; however, in contrast to traditional gestural abstraction, her actions are attempts to capture the communications of others.


Leaning panes of glass are often included partially glazing the paintings and reflecting the fragility of relationships that form her subject.


By these means, Winstone creates a space in which to contemplate that which is fluid in motion and that which is formed, however transitory.


This event coincided with the British Museum's Drawing in silver and gold exhibition:  ‘Leonardo to Jasper Johns'


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