Susan Michie produced 42 five foot five inch drawings during the years 2003 and 2008. It was the first large-scale body of work the artist produced and was undertaken largely in isolation, from a remote studio on the Purbeck Peninsula in Dorset. This summer the New Hall Art Collection will be exhibiting a selection of drawings from Michie’s opus work, alongside a number of newer and smaller experimental drawings.
Michie is interested in absence and in what it means for a woman to make art. In this body of drawings reference is made to the Bayeux Tapestry, into which the drawings would fit 42 times. This embroidered artefact is largely authorless, and Michie is attracted to this disembodied state. She is also drawn by repetition, and perhaps too where it becomes obsession. Her ink and graphite drawings are locked in place by a repetitive mark-making process. The process is slow and painstaking and also in some way discreet.
The shapes produced by the handmade lines have their origins in something that appears to be distinctly subconscious, however. Michie describes them as ‘familiar but unknown, tangible but illusive’. What are manifested are at times amoeba-like organisms, at other times simple sheets slightly distressed at their edges.
An historical record, an absence of fact, an invisible cultural language, unnamed spectres from the subconscious … all these notions are present in the drawings. Worked on such a large scale, their stiffness gives them an air of importance. One is lead to believe they contain a message, but then finds that the story is not fully given, the meaning of the shapes remains concealed. What is left is an impression of diligence, of loving care, the hand of the woman who made them.