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Drawing Democracy

  • The Holden Gallery Manchester Metropolitan University, Grosvenor Building, Cavendish Street Manchester, M15 6BR United Kingdom (map)

Drawing Democracy: The Art of Observation and its Power to affect Change

Thursday 18 July 2019 | 18:00 - 20:00 | The Holden Gallery, Manchester, M15 6BR

Join the team behind The John Ruskin Prize, visual literacy charity The Big Draw, for a tour of The 5th John Ruskin Prize shortlist exhibition: Agent of Change and informal panel discussion (with live drawing) led by Ruskin Prize 2019 finalists and alumni exploring the role of art and visual literacy for social and political change.

Standard £5 | Concession Free / donation entry for Students, People in receipt of Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support or Job Seekers allowance, and disabled people (with free entry for one carer).

6 - 6.45pm: curator led exhibition tour of The John Ruskin Prize 2019: Agent of Change

6.45 - 8pm: Panel discussion ‘Drawing Democracy’ with: Manchester based artist and Ruskin Prize Student Winner 2015/16 Robin Sukatorn, Sheffield based artist and 2017 / 2019 Ruskin Prize Finalist, Conor Rogers, Managing-Director of The John Ruskin Prize; Rachel Price and Director for Education & Master-Elect of Ruskin's Guild of St George Dr Rachel Dickinson.

Meet The Panel:

Robin Sukatorn is an artist and illustrator living and working in Manchester, gaining his MFA in Illustration from the Manchester School of Art in 2017, he has since shown his work internationally and published his first book. Primarily a graphic artist and illustrator, Sukatorn draws figures, scenes and events from the political, civic and cultural life of the United Kingdom and more recently across the US, based on direct observation of the subject at hand. The artist is particularly passionate about the social utility of drawing as a means of recording and reporting on the contemporary world around him.

In 2016 Sukatorn won the inaugural John Ruskin Prize Student Award for a reportage drawing of Jeremy Corbyn speaking outside Manchester Cathedral.  Sukatorn’s debut book ‘Drawing Democracy’ (published 2018) was released 100 years from the signing of the historic 1918 Representation of the People Act - brings together over 140 illustrations of scenes of democracy, all drawn from the direct experiences and observations of the artist, accompanied by written introductions offering a unique insight into his experiences.

 Conor Rogers is an artist based in Sheffield and a graduate of Sheffield Hallam university (2014). In combining image and object the artist endeavours to convey the intense reality of life in Britain – providing an alternative view of those living in the margins of our society. The works are simultaneously hyper-ordinary, but at the same time, extraordinary. The ordinary is turned into something precious, through the artist’s hours of time and painstaking, often repetitive labour.

Rogers comments: “I was not conscious of this at the time, but my practice began as a kid living on Sheffield Council estates”.

His powerful works were recognised early in his career, when one of his degree show paintings was shortlisted for the John Moores painting prize in 2014. Subsequently Conor has exhibited work nationally and internationally, selected exhibitions and projects include: Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2015) Utopia Deferred, Artlink Gallery, Corke Gallery and Dean Clough Gallery (2016-2017), UKYA national festival, Derby (2016), UK representative: ‘Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale’, Albania (2017), The John Ruskin Prize 2017: Master of All Trades, Millennium Gallery (2017), ‘Malevolent Eldritch Shrieking’, Attercliffe TM Sheffield. Rogers work: ‘Sticky Fingers’ (2017) was selected for The John Ruskin Prize 2019 and features in this years shortlist exhibition: Agent of Change.

Dr Rachel Dickinson is the Director for Education & Master-Elect of Ruskin's Guild of St George, the charity founded by John Ruskin in 1871.  A Principal Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, she teaches English literature from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Her primary research interest is John Ruskin.  Initially, this related to her PhD from Lancaster University on letters by Ruskin, which gave rise to an edited collection: John Ruskin’s Correspondence with Joan Severn: Sense and Nonsense Letters (Legenda 2008).  In addition to publishing on Ruskin, she has given many lectures on him, been interviewed about him by BBC Radio 4 and Radio Scotland, and curated an exhibition “Teaching Silkworms to Spin”: John Ruskin and the ‘Ethics of Textiles’ (Ruskin Library, Lancaster University 2013).  Her current research interest is in Ruskin and textiles, and in Ruskin’s vision for  sustainable living during the nineteenth century and how this can be reinterpreted for the twenty-first century in areas such as art, business management, crafts, ethical consumerism, museum curation, and even farming and land management.  She is co-ordinating Ruskin in Manchester 2019 and curating an exhibition ‘Ruskin’s Manchester: from Devil’s Darkness to Beacon City’ at Manchester Metropolitan’s Special Collections (until 23 August 2019). 

Rachel Price is The Managing-Director of The John Ruskin Prize and Operations & Partnerships Manager for The Big Draw, the global visual literacy charity established by Ruskin’s Guild of St George in 2000. Since 2014, alongside The Big Draw’s Director Kate Mason, Price has been committed to broadening the ambitions, reach and reputation of The John Ruskin Prize – cementing its status as the fastest growing multi-disciplinary art prize in the UK. With the values of the radical polymath John Ruskin at its core, The John Ruskin Prize has a growing reputation for supporting and promoting artists, designers and makers whose work defies easy categorisation but simultaneously displays a clear mission.

Price is committed and passionate about creating truly accessible creative experiences for all.  Prior to her work with The Big Draw and John Ruskin Prize she worked on projects including The South London and South East Coast Art Maps, Deptford X Contemporary Art Festival and with venues including BEARSPACE Gallery, Hatch Space and organisations including The National Autistic Society, Mencap, and The University of Reading. Independent curatorial projects include: ‘Information Centre’, Hatch Space (2012), ‘Planning Permission’ – Squid & Tabernacle (2010), ‘The Absurd Hero’ Parts I & II, Core Gallery (2010 – 2011) and ‘Skinflint’, Lewisham Arthouse (2009).

Drawing Democracy | Ruskin in Manchester 2019

In 1857 John Ruskin (1819-1900) delivered one of his most important public lectures in Manchester: The Political Economy of Art. Manchester did not come off well – Ruskin believed that Manchester represented all that was wrong with the world at the time. It was the manifestation of the rampant free market capitalism. The human cost of industrialisation was evident all around him and art, craft, the environment were neglected in the pursuit of wealth.

Ruskin wanted to encourage art and craftsmanship, not just for aesthetic reasons, but because he thought art helped us to see the world more clearly. In particular, he valued drawing as a discipline that helps us to see things, both beauty and injustice – and truly to see something is also to understand it, dissect it, what it is for, what it means. It was mainly to revive this aspect of Ruskin’s teaching that in 2000 the Guild of St George founded The Big Draw (formerly The Campaign for Drawing).

Now an independent global charity, The Big Draw, advocates through its various programmes the far-reaching impact of visual literacy and the power of the universal language of drawing, a truly accessible tool for communication, wellbeing, invention and learning.

Ruskin – The social reformer

Ruskin worked tirelessly for a better society. His often fierce critique of industrial society and its impact on both people and their environment, and his passionate advocacy of a sustainable relationship between people, craft and nature, remain as pertinent today as they were in his own lifetime.

Ruskin’s influence is far reaching, he championed many of the tenets of the welfare state, and inspired the founders of the National Health Service, the formation of Public Libraries, the National Trust and many other cornerstones of civil society in the last one hundred years. He has also played an integral role in such areas as women’s education, the minimum wage, child labour, and environmental protection and has served both as a restraining influence on unbridled capitalism and a moral conscience for the nations of the world.