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Trail of Tears

I'm just back from a trip to Madrid, a first for me on many fronts: first time in the city, first time I've seen a country celebrating a World Cup victory (the game happened while I was there), first time to the Prado to see what is probably my favorite painting, Velazsquez's Las Meninas. It was also my first time to visit the Reina Sofia, Madrid's impressive museum for modern art, and hence to see their prize possession – Picasso's Guernica. This is a big month for Picasso in the UK, with a major show at Gagosian here in London …

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A String Theory

How do you create a drawing in space? What you need is a linear element that can be held in tension, left to droop, crossed and tangled – just like a pencil line (which can be ruled, freely drawn, and overlapped). String is the thing.

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Adventures Inside the Atom

This guest post has been contributed by Rosie Wanek, of the V&A Exhibitions Department. I have a memory of a poster that hung on my bedroom wall when I was young. I must have been around 5 or 6. It was lovingly drawn in marker pen by my mother and showed a tree being chopped down into ever smaller pieces across a series of nine drawings. By around picture five, the recognisable illustrations of plant life had transformed magically into a diagram of a cell, an image that bore no resemblance to anything my five-year-old eyes had ever seen. This …

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Circular Logic

In my 2007 book Thinking Through Craft, I related the story of ‘Giotto’s O,’ told by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists, as a way of talking about skill. It’s a good enough anecdote to repeat here. Pope Benedict IX, having heard of Giotto’s fame, sent a courtier to seek him out. When the […]

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Inside the Lines: Richard Kindersley

They say great minds think alike. If the reverse is also true, then the London gallery Contemporary Applied Arts and I should both be flattered. Their current show, guest curated by Scottish craft specialist Amanda Game, is a striking parallel to this blog. It's all about the relationship between drawings and objects. Below are examples of works in the show by Gordon Baldwin (left) and Susan Cross (right), showing how draftsmanship can be translated into the languages of ceramics and thread. Though the whole show is worth a look, the artist whose drawings most caught my attention was Richard Kindersley. …

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Living the Dream: El Lissitzky

In design circles, the Dutch town of Eindhoven is best known for its excellent Design Academy – which has produced some of the biggest names in the field over the past decade.

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Tony Cragg, in profile

Recently Ihad the pleasure of speaking at Lisson Gallery, which has an exhibition of recent work by the British sculptor Tony Cragg. The works on view are astounding from the point of view of fabrication. Like a handful of other contemporary sculptors in the UK- RachelWhiteread, Anish Kapoor and Richard Deacon spring to mind – Cragg has become a master of production values. He moves with seeming effortlessness from material to material, creating similar forms in stainless steel, resin, stone, and plywood. Here are two works from the Lisson show, one in steel and one in wood. Cragg's sculptures remind …

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Size Does Matter

`Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice. `I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!' (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). `Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I'm sure Ishan't be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can. – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland With Alice in Wonderland in the news, thanks to …

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Duly Noted

Among the prize exhibits in the V&A's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries are the so-called Forster Codices, a trio of notebooks kept by Leonardo da Vinci. They got me thinking about the books that artists and designers use for sketching. One of the interesting features of the Leonardo volumes is that they include five separate notebooks, set into three bindings. It's a reminder that in the early modern period, the relation between a book's pages and its covers was quite flexible. Right up until the 18th century, you had to get your loose leaves of paper from a bookseller, and …

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Disembodied

It's not surprising that when a fashion designer sits down to draw, the emphasis is usually on the clothing. Flip through a couturier's sketchbook and you're likely to find a series of interchangeable, blandly beautiful women or men, dressed up and maybe given new haircuts. These examples from the V&A's collection of 1940s sketches by the British fashion designer Marjorie Field make the point pretty well. Though the renderings are wonderful, they remind me of a child dressing up a paper doll in different outfits. The same attitude is evident in this terrific 17th century miniature, which allows you to …

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