A first look at Nan Goldin's drawings

Discover the deeply personal origins of the photographer's drawings on show for the first time
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The plot, Berlin, March 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks
The plot, Berlin, March 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks

The power of Nan Goldin’s photographs lie in the way she manages to make her own experience – from her lovers, to her friends to her bust-ups - appeal to a very wide audience.

So, it shouldn’t come as an enormous surprise to learn that, when venturing into a new medium, Goldin has things work deeply personal. Her current show, on at Matthew Marks’ West 24th Street gallery in Manhattan until 23 December, entitled Nan Goldin: blood on my hands, is the first public exhibition of her drawings.

 

Withdrawal / Quicksand, Berlin/NY, February 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks
Withdrawal / Quicksand, Berlin/NY, February 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks

And if these ink, oil and graphite works on paper have a journal-like quality, that’s because they actually evolved from daily entries, as the gallery explains. “Goldin has kept a diary since childhood, often filling the pages with drawings. Recently those drawings have taken on a new life as independent works of art. Emerging from her regular practice of daily reflection, they share the charged emotional atmosphere of her photographs, but their symbolic imagery, handwritten texts, and complex surfaces, made with a variety of media, introduce an expressive element that is new to her work.”

 

The blue boy with the chip on his shoulder, NY, August 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Nan Goldin
The blue boy with the chip on his shoulder, NY, August 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Nan Goldin

A few of the pictures bring to mind the work of Goldin’s friend, the South African painter Marlene Dumas, while others have something in common with the neo-expressionists, many of whom are Goldin’s contemporaries.

Goldin has paired these pictures with a series of photographic works: five large-scale “grids” of multiple photographs composed in a single frame. The works are organised according to colour, and include the occasional, familiar exposure. Photography fans might recognise her 1998 photograph of her friend, the Italian author and gallerist Guido Costa on the dock in Venice, which appears in our Goldin book, The Devil’s Playground.

 

Blue, 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks
Blue, 2016 by Nan Goldin. Image courtesy of Matthew Marks

 

While many photographers have pictures and paintings in their private archives, fewer break out into this medium as publicly as Goldin has. Her vivid, jagged images show that, regardless of whether she’s working with 35mm film or pens, pencils and brushes, she can still find scraps within her interior life that appeal to us all.

For more on her photographic work consider our Goldin books; for more on drawing take a look at our survey Vitamin D.


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