Observations on Jo by Kip Gresham, master printmaker at Cambridge Print Studio.
It’s all in the address, said Barry Flanagan, when talking about drawing. What he meant was the eye, brain, hand and tool all engage before the mark hits the surface. Jo Taylor’s drawings, and by this I mean her assemblages that include collage, painting and drawing, have the story of the address written all over them.
She knows her subject inside out, both literally and metaphorically. The transparency of her drawings is there in the musculature that underlies the outer appearance and in the way that the pieces are constructed. There is an honesty, a workman-like attitude evident in the washes, the drips and trickles and the pasted on patches of paper. However, it is the line, the acute, hard-bitten line that the eye / brain connection really comes into its own and Jo’s mastery of her medium is evident. These are not just drawings of description, these animals are alive. Sometimes, and this really is poetic, they are a store of potential energy; just like the real thing, they are ready to explode into action, quivering, alert and strong. In other instances there is a painful stillness, a vulnerability, fragility or ghostliness, an echo of past triumphs or disasters.
The way in which the drawings operate is through a series of layers. Each layer is of a kind of shadowboxing exercise. She sidles up to her subject, crucially allowing elements of every stratum to contribute key features to the finished piece, some stated forcefully and some as mere whispers. Unlike photographs, which usually capture the image lightly, these drawings have weight, they carry equivalents for sound and smell, they have a presence in themselves and give a 'nowness' to the subject.
Having made multi-layered prints with her, I have shared a studio space with a horse skull, watched her build the drawn flesh around the bones, listened as she talks to her materials, teasing out the meaning and the emotion. It is all in the address but there is also an intangible magic that she brings to the business for which there are no words.