A Drawing by Richard Serra

Richard Serra Elevational Weights, Black Matter 2010 paintstick on handmade paper 82 × 68″

On your screen is….
a photograph…
….of a printed image in a book
…which itself is a photograph of the drawing.
The absence of any detail and referential elements leave us looking but not really seeing and actually, the more you look the less you see. You see, what you need to really see is just not there.
It’s the same with the endless reproductions on tea towels, biscuit tins and laptop sleeves of iconic works such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. We’ve looked at it of course, in all its guises. It’s instantly recognisable, but probably rarely really seen.
If you get to really see this work by Richard Serra you’ll notice that it’s large, at 82 x 68 inches, and in its own way as monumental as his sculptural works. Standing in front of it, it’s so much more than just a black rectangle and it plays with your perceptions every bit as much as his sculptures.
It’s a drawing on handmade paper so there is the texture of the paper showing in places. It’s made with paintsticks held together to produce a block for covering areas in a sweep. So there are distinct strokes and also a lot of variation in texture and depth. The paintsticks produce a surface which seems to play with the light, both absorbing it and reflecting it. It has a real feeling of depth and volume and earns its title.
I’ve never seen black as a negation of colour, or negative in some way. Because it contains all the colours its feels complete and one can spend time just being with it, understanding it and being excited by its possibilities. Its all there. It always was, maybe we just couldn’t see it.

Keron Beattie