Interview with Artist, Alison Carlier, Jerwood Drawing Prize Winner

The year 2014 marks the 20th Jerwood Drawing Prize, making it the largest and longest running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK. For the first time in the history of the prize, the award has gone to a sound artist, Alison Carlier, for her 1 minute 15 second audio work entitled Adjectives, lines and marks, which she describes as “An open-ended audio drawing, a spoken description of an unknown object”. Carlier speaks to Aesthetica about how she won a drawing prize with a sound piece and her admiration for the other nominated artists.

A: You won a drawing prize with a sound piece – how did you do that!?
By entering it into the competition! Sound isn’t usually associated with drawing. I think the strength of Adjectives, lines and marks, lies in the type of text that’s used. It’s sourced from a reference book where the purpose is to catalogue findings from archaeological digs (Roman Southwark settlement and economy: excavations in Southwark 1973-91 Museum of London Archaeology, 2009); the language used needs to be richly descriptive, visual and precise to represent the artefact. The text charts the object as your eye might when studying a detailed observational drawing; describing tone, materiality and form. The words used are reminiscent of drawing materials; black crumbly shards of charcoal or dark dusty conte. The affect on the brain is the same as in a visual drawing, only the information is received by listening rather than looking.

A: You trained in drawing and fine art, how did you move into sound work?
AC: When I get really interested in a subject, I have an annoying tendency of always wanting to take it to its absolute edge; an edge that I can peer over to see whether there’s any definition. I find from this edge I can elastically ping back and then see the subject with more clarity.

A: What does it mean to you to win the Jerwood Drawing Prize?
I am really delighted to have won the prize. It’s a prestigious prize, but further than that, I feel I’ve been given a nod by people who know and understand contemporary drawing; which is great.

A: Your work is exhibited with a range of other artists, which of their pieces particularly stood out to you?
I particularly like Kate Sollohub’s loose charcoal drawings. I like seeing something almost recognisable in a picture, but having the space to make up my own mind. I think Jonathan Huxley’s work has a similar affect, only with narrative. It’s not clear what the two dark figures are doing in relation to the car. It’s called Breakdown; which of course has multiple meanings. I also like Alan Hathaway’s impossibly light watercolours. These escape definition physically and semantically. All effortlessly open-ended. And one of the many pulls off drawing for me.

A: What do you have planned for next?
I like the analogy of “always keeping my pencil sharpened”, which to me means staying focussed and inquisitive.

See Alison’s work at Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, London, SE1 0LN, until 26 October. Visit Jerwood Visual Arts for more.

1. Alison Carlier, Installation view, Adjectives, lines and marks, Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Photography