Felicity Warbrick’s recent work is principally about revealing what civilisations leave behind – the handmade 'traces' of everyday human existence. It's about a focus on the utilitarian beauty of pre-industrial, indigenous objects whether they're useful – a pair of shoes, a Scottish creel or woven hurdle – or purely decorative, like the Etruscan heads. She loves the fact that each object has its own story, and has been made by human hands for a specific purpose. Where previously HER drawings have concentrated on the exteriors of vernacular buildings, these drawings find her stepping inside, entering stage-like spaces in which objects are the protagonists.
The slow nature of HER drawing process and, similarly, that of the woodcuts AND SOAP CARVINGS, mirrors that of the making of the object itself. Each drawing/woodcut is very labour-intensive, and the concentration required to make the thousands of tiny marks each demands can be seen as an acknowledgement of the ingenuity of craftspeople both past and present. It's as if by isolating the object and re-imagining it in this hard-won way she is able to preserve for posterity the craft of its making.
The objects she chooses appear to select themselves: for instance, she found the 'rivlins' (laced shoes made from untanned hides) in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. There were hundreds of objects there but these were the ones SHE was drawn to. Not all of the objects she draws are useful. She found the Etruscan heads in the Guarnacci Museum in Volterra, Italy, while the architectural and spatial details that frame the objects – and which function rather like scenery stage 'flats' – are a nod to the frescoes painted by Fra Angelico on the convent walls of San Marco, Florence.
She has what might be called a 'Romantic' desire to preserve these relics of her/our past through her drawing, making of these objects a 'paper museum', a kind of archive of the artisanal. This comes through most revealingly in the woodcuts, the choice of medium being itself artisanal, involving painstakingly cutting into a plywood block. The technique was of course historically much used for producing book illustrations, and the implied narrative is for her part of its appeal, as if the object's story is embedded in the final image.
Felicity Warbrick studied at Chelsea College of Art. She was an exhibitor in the 2011 Jerwood Drawing Prize, wells art contemporary 2018 and at the RA summer show 2016 and 2019. She has shown with GBS FINE ART LONDON, Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, The Cat Street Gallery in Hong Kong, Waterhouse & Dodd, London and ORIEL DAVIES NEWTOWN.
Having spent her childhood on the edges of the Yorkshire Dales and then 18 years in London, she now lives and works in rural Shropshire consolidating her feelings of a life-long connection with wild landscape, it's architecture, history and significance to her as a creative resource.