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"Collaborative Drawings: John Berger and Marisa Camino"
2005-12-09 until 2006-01-20
Vangard Gallery
Cork, , IE Ireland

Commissioned by Cork 2005 as part of the European Capital of Culture visual arts programme, John Berger – one of the most influential thinkers on culture of our time – has collaborated with Spanish artist Marisa Camino to create a unique exhibition of drawings that will be exhibited at the Vangard Gallery, Cork, in December 2005. John Berger is a storyteller, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, whose body of work embodies his concern for, in Geoff Dyer's words, "the enduring mystery of great art and the lived experience of the oppressed."

He is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years, who has explored the relationships between the individual and society, culture and politics and experience and expression in a series of novels, book works, essays, plays, films, photographic collaborations and performances, unmatched in their diversity, ambition and reach. His television series and book Ways of Seeing revolutionised the way that Fine Art is read and understood, while his engagement with European peasantry and migration in the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours and A Seventh Man stand as models of empathy and insight.

Central to Berger’s creative identity is the idea of collaboration, with people, places and communities as much as with other writers and thinkers. Democratic and open exchange is embedded into his work, and among those artists with whom he has worked are some of the most imaginative in their fields - theatre director Simon McBurney of Théatre de Complicité, the late artist Juan Munoz, photographer Jean Mohr, composer Gavin Bryars and film-makers Mike Dibb, Alain Tanner and Timothy Neat.

Camino, who has produced a masterly body of drawings, sculptures and installations, makes delicate, fragile and translucent marks on paper and these combine with Berger’s own handwriting as a draftsman. The collaboration of the ‘elder statesman of art’ with an emerging contemporary artist is extraordinary. The result is such that a third artist is evoked, one who is neither Camino nor Berger. Berger describes the process as follows:

“How do we make these drawings together? One of us starts a drawing and sends it by post to the other who, if provoked, continues it, and sends it back. And so on. A few of the larger drawings we worked on more or less simultaneously, drawing on the floor of the same studio. We never discuss with words, only with charcoal, colours, etc. Both of us, when drawing alone, draw differently. Yet in the drawings we do together, it is often hard for us afterwards to be sure which of us did what. This is why we say – they are the drawings of a third person.”

Berger himself chose the Vangard Gallery on Carey’s Lane, established in 1991, for its wonderful views of Cork’s churches. Speaking about the upcoming exhibition, John P. Quinlan of the Vangard Gallery said “It goes without saying that is a great pleasure as well as a great privilege to work with a giant such as John Berger. Very few can be said to have influenced, in any but the most transient of ways, the manner in which we view the world and, by extension, the art of the world. Berger is indeed one such person. If art encourages us to look at our surroundings in a new way, then the critic who can refresh our jaded sensibilities is crucial to our visual development as a species. Agree or disagree with its central tenets, but the small book “Ways of Seeing” contains within its covers the power to make real changes in our outlook. When the critic is also an artist and we know him to be as rigorous in his thoughts as John Berger, then we can look forward to the forthcoming exhibition of drawings with extra anticipation. That he has chosen, first of all, to exhibit drawings - the first touch from the mind to visual realisation and, secondly, that he has chosen to work in collaboration with another artist is proof, if that were needed, that even as an elder statesman, he is still prepared to walk the high-wire without a safety-net.’’


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