May 2017 & February 2019
Many, Many, Anyhow, Anyhow
Nel trained as a photographer and graduated with a Bachelor's from Lasalle in 2011. Since then, he has been exploring many other avenues, from food photography to plant rearing. In fact, he was one of the pioneer artists-in-residence in 2012.
Nel also loves teaching children art and craft, including air-dried clay, recycled art, and watercolour, Over the last 4 years, Nel has collected a large number of children’s drawings, or as he likes to call them, "doodles". He does not teach drawing but encourages children to draw out their ideas before developing them into larger scale or 3D projects. Once the project is done, the sketches of preliminary ideas on paper often get discarded--but Nel picks them up, even from the bin!
Now, for the first time, Nel will retrieve his carefully organised collection and display it on the walls, windows, and ceiling of the studio space. In February 2019, Nel would return to l'Observatoire with Nel's Doodle Museum, an online gallery that houses his ever-growing collection of children's drawings.
Read on for the story of his double residency!
The First Residency — May 2017
When Nel walked into the studio pushing cartloads of drawings, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We had been speaking about this installation for a while and I knew that Nel had a fondness for children’s drawings. I had also seen how he had filled one of his walls at home with some of his favorites. But I wasn't too sure about how he wanted to show his collection off.
During the 2 weeks preceding the hanging of the pictures, we had many discussions ahead of anticipating how these drawings, collected through art and craft lessons, could be used to inspire even more children’s drawings. What I enjoyed most was Nel’s naïve enthusiasm about each of the drawings. As he was be sorting through his piles of drawings, he would suddenly call out: “Look at this one! Look at that detail in the corner”, “What do you think the he meant in this drawing?” or “Look at how she drew this elephant”. Strictly no judgement means that every single drawing that passes through Nel’s hands has a chance to be looked at again, and marvelled at.
We wondered if it would be possible to sort out which drawings had been made by boys or girls. We agreed that while we often seemingly can, we could also be wrong, and sometimes there is no way of knowing. As expected, the stereotypes worked to an extent but are not foolproof. We could also easily distinguish young artists from the older ones, but many in the middle left us confused. Nel reminisced the stories for many of the drawings, In the end, the drawings were put up according to categories.
We had prepared a booklet of challenge in case walking into such a visually crammed room would leave the visitors intimidated and overwhelmed. The booklet prompted specific drawings to decipher and specific details to pay attention to. Visitors were asked to look for their portrait from the walls, many of them finding the drawing spot on!
Small visitors from Blue House Preschool and La Petite Ecole came with their teachers. Some came after school with their parents. Usually, they were awed by the pictures: “Oh look, even on the ceiling!”. It usually took a while for them to finally look at individual pictures, and finally to realise there was an order to how the pictures were placed. Some children took their drawings home, while others insisted on sticking theirs among the exhibition.
We had questions for them:
“Who did the drawings?” > “Children! Because children can draw!”
“How do you know it’s an elephant?” > “It’s got a trunk!”
“And this one?” > “It’s a mouse, with a sock in front”.
“Oh look, they are all tigers here, and fish on the ceiling”.
Adult visitors came too, curious to see children’s pictures and ready to discuss. The main question was: How do you draw like a child?
We were ready to discuss, with my own Picasso/child drawing installation for taller people to engage with. We collected many “children’s drawings” from adult visitors and many stories/memories from parents reminiscing about their own children’s drawing period.
OPEN STUDIO — Installation & Exhibited Artworks
The Second Residency — February 2019
Nel's Doodle Museum: The Pop-up Gallery
What happens when you collect children's drawings daily as an art and craft instructor? Very quickly, you might be drowning in them! Eventually, Nel bought a high-speed scanner and started scanning his entire collection with the intention of making it available online.
After the success of his first experiment 'Many Many Anyhow Anyhow' which asked "How do children (and adults) react to an exhibition of drawings by their peers on a large scale?", we wanted to experiment further with methods for displaying and accessing this large-scale collection. Hence, Nel and Isabelle team up again for his second residency, this time trying to engage the public to actively use the images for storytelling, or to identify portraits or doodle along.
The questions that come up as we try to create an environment that is conducive for spending time with individual drawings are related to the space of exhibition;
What is the right way to present the drawings to tell a story?
What happens when my drawing gets shown among other drawings?
And of course, can I find a matching portrait of myself in the gallery of hanging portraits?
We are also planning on two different ways of using the collection: to inspire book-making; and create simple drawn T-shirts. These special workshops will be announced later and will likely happen at the end of February. Let's see how far a simple child's doodle can take us!