Spotlight: In a Somerset Exhibition, 17 Artists Tap Into Experiences of Empathy and Isolation Through Drawing

The group show "Lines of Empathy" features work by Simon Hitchens, whom Close Ltd. recently announced representation of.

Exterior of Close Ltd. showing "Lines of Empathy" (2023). Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

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What You Need to Know: On view through July 22, 2023, gallery Close Ltd. in Somerset presents the sweeping group exhibition “Lines of Empathy.” Featuring a selection of hand-drawn works on paper by 17 artists working in Britain, the show was brought together by London-based Italian artist Giulia Ricci, and was born out of Ricci’s (and the world’s) experiences during pandemic lockdowns. The exhibition includes works by Fay Ballard, Duncan Bullen, Lucinda Burgess, Helen Cass, Rachel Duckhouse, Mary Griffith, Simon Hitchens, Louise Hopkins, Carali McCall, Onya McCausland, Anna Mossman, David Murphy, Peter Peri, Kathy Prendergast, Wendy Smith, Kate Terry, and Ricci herself.

A publication of the same name, Lines of Empathy, accompanies the show, offering reproductions of the works included in the exhibition as well as a series of texts. The exhibition “Lines of Empathy” opened at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art in London earlier this year before traveling to Close Ltd. In conjunction with the accompanying book, the show offers visitors the opportunity to explore and discover the unique practice of each artist represented—both through viewing their work in person as well as reading about their inspirations through interviews and conversations conducted by Ricci reproduced in the publication.

Why We Like It: Drawing on paper has a sense of immediacy and directness not commonly found in other mediums. The hand of the artist is inextricably linked with the work, indexed by every mark made. Inspired by the pandemic and ideas around collective experience, a survey of regional artists’ drawings presents a poignant and cogent exploration of not only individual practices but the collaborative effort of bringing these works and artists together during a time of separation.

Particularly exciting is the inclusion of Simon Hitchens’s work, whom Close Ltd. recently announced representation of (see the viewing room here). Preceding his inclusion in “Lines of Empathy,” he was the subject of an eponymous solo show at the gallery, presenting a range of sculptures and drawings. Hitchens, known for his meticulous line drawings and psychologically investigative practice, described his work as “[exploring] interconnectedness between human and the non-human, as a means to learning about Mankind’s relationship with impermanence.” He also has a forthcoming show going on view at the Somerset Rural Life Museum.

Simon Hitchens. Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

According to the Gallery: “The title ‘Lines of Empathy’ is a synthesis of the project’s main themes: on one hand the exploration of the process of mark-making while drawing on paper by hand, on the other, empathy as the act of reaching out into someone else’s experience. The invited artists have been asked to talk in detail about their chosen artwork on paper, with questions related to their choice of paper, media, and processes used as well as their relationship with the body and the senses; they have also contributed their thoughts on the impact that the pandemic has had on their individual practices. The interview project has been informed by an interest in mirror neurons and empathy; the artworks have been considered as ‘vehicles’ for experiences to which the viewers might feel a connection.

‘Lines of Empathy’ has also been a personal journey for artist Giulia Ricci at a time of great collective uncertainty. Inspired by Carla Lonzi’s Autoritratto, originally published in Italy in 1969 and only recently translated into English, ultimately the book and exhibition are forms of self-portrait through the acknowledgment of other artists’ practices that have influenced Ricci in her journey as an immigrant from Italy to the UK over two decades.”

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Installation view of “Lines of Empathy” (2023). Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

Installation view of “Lines of Empathy” (2023). Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

Simon Hitchens, 06.57 Bankend 19.16 (2019). Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

Lucinda Burgess, Borderlines (2017). Courtesy of Close Ltd., Somerset.

Lines of Empathy” is on view at Close Ltd. through July 22, 2023.

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