Recitalists (after George Stubbs), 2020

I made three sets of drawings at song recitals in different venues, most recently at Wigmore Hall (London) in January. This series terminated early with the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

I used a small sketchbook, working in pencil across both pages, methodically crossing the page, without glancing down or pausing. My attention moved between the accompanist on my left and soloist on the right. The fold in the sketchbook made the pencils jitter in the gutter, causing a regular hiccough down the middle of the drawing, dislocating the piano’s clean lines in the process. The constraints of not wanting to create a distraction made drawing very awkward at the time.

During lockdown, I worked in my studio, on various versions from these sketches, always trying to enlarge upon and decipher the original work. Something about the memory of that gleaming piano with its attendant musicians reminded me of George Stubbs’ Newmarket paintings from the 1760s but in lieu of Stubbs’ glossy racehorses, grooms, trainers and jockeys I began to substitute a dysfunctional piano and some approximate doodles where the musical protagonists ought to be. Strangely, the more I look at these lines on the page, the more I think of the glorious thoroughbreds that so engaged George Stubbs at Newmarket. A generic Stubbs title of the time might be: ‘Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, Stable-lad and Jockey’ 1765; mine in 2020 might be ‘Steinway at Wigmore Hall with Mezzo-soprano, Accompanist and Page-turner’.

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