Artist diary: The Madge Gill Co-Commission, part five

Julia Oak reveals how seeing her drawing at Pallant House Gallery will be an experience she’ll never forget

In preparation for my proposal for the co-commission, I researched Madge Gill’s creative process and discovered that she produced many works on large rolls of paper.
I found this fascinating as it is something I have been doing since 2010.

My proposal contained different elements, two of which were to draw a long picture on a 10-metre roll of paper and to make a film of the process.

However, like Madge Gill, my home is not big enough to roll out the paper and see the whole image. Like Madge, whilst drawing I work on a small section which is rolled up when completed, revealing the next blank area to draw on.

Julia’s winter drawing space, only the section she is working on is visible.

Madge had to wait until her work was exhibited to see it in its entirety or hang it around the wall of her garden in Plashet Grove.

But I needed to film the drawing, so I arranged with Pallant House Gallery and Outside In to roll out my drawing at the Gallery on a Monday when it is closed to the public.

I was met at the Gallery by the art technician, the curator of Pallant House Gallery and by Cornelia from Outside In. We proceeded to a suitable space to unroll the drawing with me sat on my mobility scooter.

What followed was an awareness I had never previously experienced.

There is a silent beauty in a large gallery space devoid of the shuffling feet and mumbles of the public and surrounded by amazing artwork. Being allowed into the building at these times makes you feel quite special.

As soon as we assembled the technician started laying out sheets of protective covering on the floor. There was an attention to detail, they made sure all the sheets lined up and that they were the right way up and a length of floor in excess of 10 metres was completely covered, gone was my anxiety of the drawing picking up dust particles.

Next came the unrolling of the drawing, the technician did this for me, he wore gloves to protect the work, (and himself in this time of Covid-19). Gone was my anxiety of having to crawl around the floor to lay out my drawing.

The work was adjusted and lined up as I requested. As I requested, not something I am used to.

Before filming started, they all looked at my work.  Hearing positive comments, I was so humbled, these people who handle artworks by some of the most famous artists in the world were looking at my work. Me. Julia!
Not only did they look but they treated my work with the same respect they bestow on all artwork.
This was, is, overwhelming and something I will never forget. Something I had not been prepared for.
I moved from invisible disabilities to invisible rewards. Wow.

After various attempts to film the drawing it turned out that the best way forward was to mount the tripod and iPad onto my mobility scooter. On the third attempt I managed to get a workable piece of film to add my time lapse clips to.
This was such fun.
I was very careful of the artwork around me, instinctively, I treated the artwork around me as mine had been treated earlier.

Footage of Julia filming her work


3 Comments about this

  1. Julia Fry

    I love this beautiful vulnerable description of becoming. How wonderful that Julia’s process is so similar to Madge’s. It’s perfect that Julia received this commission!

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  2. Tony Watson

    It would be great to see a detailed high res image of the whole final piece, but from what I can see, I think the drawing is a beautifully simple, free spirited and articulate work.

    Very well done to Julia.

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