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Two artists draw the line together

Two artists on two afternoons. Watching the water and drawing. Capturing what they can see from their bench beside the Cook’s River, quickly and freely.

Two artists “taking a line for a walk”, as Paul Klee once said; building a shared exhibition of 23 works they simply called Drawings. The show opened at the Orchard Gallery on Saturday November 23, with music by local guitarist Denny Kesic.

Adrian Spry and Andrew Collis have worked together for years, so their artistic collaboration was easy.

Their different but complementary styles chimed to one another as the halyards of yachts, or the wings of birds lifting from water, forging a new and refreshing visual music from their pairing, soulful and serene.

“We were pretty much sitting doing our own thing,” Adrian recalled at the launch of Drawings, “just talking away.

“At that time of day, at that place, it was nice. Right as the sun was coming down, it was pretty good.”

‘Bridge’ by Adrian Spry, charcoal, chalk and gesso on paper, 2019.

Andrew also relished the time shared.

“We sat by the water. On a bench seat, on a jetty. The sun was setting. The leaves falling or fallen, and my favourite work is Adrian’s drawing of the falling/fallen leaves.

“We made our drawings quickly – excitedly. Later we looked, laughed, recomposed, and collaged.

“At one level, these small drawings communicate a love of drawing, marking time. At another level they question: Where does the artist speak from? Who or what calls him or her to speak?”

For Andrew this urge arises from a place of “shapeshifting, movement, wonder” – of freedom and communion – a place he’s drawn to again and again as a thirsty animal will revisit the same waterhole.

“There is mystery in the act of making. We find something greater, an inexplicable extra that transcends individual lives while remaining rooted in them.”

Adrian has always loved how being in salt water clears your mind, and believes drawing can be similar.

“When it’s good, it keeps you very much in the moment, it’s pretty Zen. And, I like it when it’s like that.

“This can also happen when you’re writing – if you write poetry – and I love it when a work falls out of you, easily.

“If you can be a conduit, I reckon you’re in a pretty good place with your art.”

Andrew’s first tertiary degree is in Design from Sydney College of the Arts, but he later studied theology, and has been the minister at the South Sydney Uniting Church for 13 years.

“The two disciplines are not so dissimilar,” he said. “The philosophers Richard Kearney and Matthew Clemente talk about us making ‘with, in and through God’ … and God making ‘with, in and through us’ in an act of ongoing, double creation.”

Adrian said he’d always drawn pictures as a kid, but had only returned to it in the last 15 years. He’d once attempted to study art more formally but felt it got in the way – as it was easy to overdo a drawing and wreck it.

“My style of drawing is expressive.”

Adrian sketched some of his works with his left hand to keep them loose; drew what he’d seen with his eyes closed; gave himself a time limit; or glanced at his subject then looked away as he drew.

Andrew extols the extraordinary in the ordinary – the humble materials of gesso, charcoal and chalk, paper and paste, and drink coasters.

“I see a face, an eye, a smile; a house-boat, fish-boat, bird-boat … A neighbourhood. A social and cultural history. Ecology. I see more than I can see.

“I am very short-sighted.”

Drawings is at the Orchard Gallery, 56a Raglan Street, Waterloo, until December 27 with 25 per cent of sales proceeds to be donated to Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). The gallery’s next exhibition of works from Saturday Art Class participants will be launched on December 28.


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