Ruth Rosengarten. England. Artist. Art historian.


Because I could never completely decide between them and because I could neither give up words nor images, I am both an artist and an art historian. Drawing has always been central to my practice, but over the past decade or so, I have also been taking photographs more seriously. This vacillation between activities has meant that I have sometimes gone through extended periods without setting foot in my studio. Drawing is, under these circumstances, always my way of getting my hand “in”. It is, for me, both intimate and expansive, always liberating, helping me dismantle rusty inhibitions that set in over periods when I haven’t made hands-on work.

For some artists, the sketchbook represents drawing from life: a little pocket companion to urban explorations, far flung landscapes or foreign travel. While sketchbooks were initially places where I explored ideas for painting or other projects, they now constitute the site for daily explorations, recording the everyday. The banal and the customary are, for me, sources of the greatest fascination: more than dreams or the imagination, reverie or fantasy, it is the everyday that has about it an ineluctable poetry. I love the “thingness” conveyed by an item of clothing or a personal possession, with its suggestion of human proximity; the details of our half eaten meals; the tenderness exposed in the relation between us and our pets or children; the familiarity of our homes and the places we inhabit regularly. There seems to be an intimate relationship between the hand that leaves its traces in drawings, and the way our bodies mark our presence in our daily lives.

I usually have several different sketchbooks on the go (different kinds of paper, different sizes), and many utensils (I can’t resist them, though really, one only needs a few). The choice of subject matter, material and support in some way all condition the way a drawing turns out: I am aware that the “look” of a drawing, whether delicate or more rough and expressionistic, whether starkly linear or scratchy and quick, is not always entirely voluntary. Because I never leave the house without my camera, and because I have amassed thousands of photographs since the advent of digital photography, it is not only life but also photography that serves as a source for drawings, and drawings that I make from photographs often have a less nervous, less edgy line: the model stays still and I’m in the comfort of my own home!

I’ve recently started a blog of daily sketches. This is less a graphic diary, though it is in small part an autobiographic record, than an attempt to record the passing of time in a disciplined way. As much as I love the drawing itself, I am also intrigued by the way the modern technology of the internet has affected that most basic form of mark making. It has made visible the work of people whose drawing unfolds in a less public arena than the gallery or the museum, and I’m so delighted to be part of that stream.