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Despite the air of pretence in calling herself an individualist, and despite the insistence of critics needing to pigeon hole what she does, Marian Drew's latest body of work manages again to avoid categorisation and to a large extent support the idea of individualism.
The New York Series isn't so much about New York, despite the obvious references to it, but more about Drew's personal responses to personal change during her three and a half month residency there during 1989.
The work appears to have become a way of ordering personal changes within the context of a new and violent environment. It makes art historical references, but is also cluttered with symbolism, both universal and personal. Darkness and oppression, violence and loneliness, death and sexuality/fertility are all on show like the aftermath of a high speed car crash. And like the roadside bystander you don't have to do anything to feel a part of the carnage. There may be survivors but there are victims too, and that's what you remember.
A screaming face; a man falling head first from in a corner with fear; a knife positioned at a throat; newspaper references to rape and crime, all conspire to reinforce the violence and pessimism. For there's not much hope here.
It’s difficult to find any kind of escape. The images draw you in through various techniques and then won't allow you to leave unscathed.
Within the context of the whole show the idea of despair becomes interesting through one particular image, Looking to the West. Although this predates the recent upheavals in Eastern Europe, in the light of those upheavals the idea of looking to the West can take on a whole new meaning. Looking to the West for hope and freedom and a brand new role model, and what will be found? There are big problems in the West too, as Drew's New York Series testifies.
The salient issue that validates Drew's claims to individualism however, is the way she has responded to New York. The viewer does not leave the room feeling he/she has participated in any kind of New York experience. I doubt this is her intention. What we find is that we have taken a journey with the artist through her expectations, desires, her needs, her fears, all while she was living in New York. lt appears there was a great deal of self reflection and reassessment while she was there and that is what she has souvenired here. The visual impact of the chaos and debris implies not only that the stay was an analytical period of isolation for the artist, but at times bordered on being traumatic. This isn't "Marian Meets New York", but more, "Marian Drew's Mystery Stories".
This is perhaps testament to the power of the issues with which Drew found herself confronted.
It is also testament to the power of a city such as New York to intimidate and to force the individual to withdraw, and become to a certain extent, self obsessed.
In so many respects large cities stomp on the idea of the individual. Drew's struggle here has been against the inevitable, insidious push toward anonymity, while trying to maintain her sense of 'The self".