Interview: Yvonne Crossley – May 2013

We interviewed Yvonne Crossley, owner of The Drawing Gallery and one of the judges of the Derwent Art Prize.


Tell us a little about yourself:

I was born in Yorkshire and studied painting at Goldsmith’s College School of Art. I’ve participated in many group and open exhibitions and held solo exhibitions in galleries across the UK including the Ikon Gallery – Birmingham, The Laing Gallery – Newcastle upon Tyne and Battersea Arts Centre – London.

I worked as a Professor and Vice Principal at Wimbledon School of Art until 2004 when I left to set up The Drawing Gallery in central London; the first gallery in the UK to focus entirely on contemporary drawing. The gallery has represented a significant number of international artists and some selected emerging British artists, all in respect of their drawing. Clients include international museums and galleries as well as corporate and private collectors. In 2006 I was one of the judges for The Jerwood Drawing Prize, in 2007 was a judge for The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize (Royal Academy Summer Exhibition), and in 2008 was on the selection panel for Re: Drawing, the third open biennial exhibition at Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown. In 2013 I was a member on the selection panel of the Royal West of England Academy Open ‘Drawn’.

I’m married to Gary Crossley who is now a full-time writer since he left his post as Principal of Central School of Speech and Drama. We’ve lived in the Welsh borders for the past 6 years; we love the isolation and the space to let the dogs run free.

We have a daughter who having completed her PhD in Victorian Literature is now lecturing in both Leeds and Leicester University.

Are you looking forwards to judging the Derwent Art Prize?

I’m delighted to be one of the judges for the first Derwent Art Prize and look forward to contributing, with Stephen Farthing and Fisun Güner, towards establishing this event as one of the highlights of annual open art exhibitions in the UK. What is particularly important for this competition is that international entries are invited, so we will be seeing work from all over the world.

What was the main drive for opening The Drawing Gallery?

I left my post as Vice Principal at Wimbledon School of Art with the clear intention of setting up The Drawing Gallery. I had been thinking for some time before I left about starting a gallery for contemporary art but it wasn’t until I focussed upon drawing that the whole idea fell into place.

So why drawing? At Wimbledon I was part of an institution that valued the teaching and practice of drawing at all levels and drawing was something that was really important to me both as an educator and a practitioner. Additionally there were no galleries at all at that time that elected to focus upon the exhibiting and selling of contemporary drawing and I certainly wanted

my gallery to offer something different from the current norm – I also wanted to exhibit works that were affordable and accessible. The little space I found in Duke Street St James was perfect for the job, and later, when I moved into a much larger premises near Ludlow in Shropshire/Herefordshire it was really good to be able to expand. What made it a success was that, without exception, everyone who I invited to exhibit at The Drawing Gallery was keen to do so and the list of exhibitors made for a really vibrant and varied programme.

Do you have a favourite piece of art that has been exhibited in your gallery?

It’s impossible to select just one piece. What I can do is list some of the works we bought ourselves because we so wanted to have them in our home to see every day.

Stephen Farthing: 2 etchings – Crossing the Delaware.

Stephen Farthing: drawing – A Plan of World Art no 4.

Alison Wilding: collage/drawing – Avian

Keir Smith: drawing -The Pump Room

Allan Jones: 12 wood prints – Alphabet

Lewis Chamberlain: painting – Things That Go

Edward Allington: 3 drawings – Tranche 1 – 3

Nina Ogden: drawing – Rodeo Poodle

I’ve also got some wonderful small works by; Charlotte Hodes, Barry Martin, Stephen Cox, Rebecca Salter, Jason Brooks, Gordon Cheung, Peter Randall-Page,  Benjamin Senior, Anita Taylor, Sharon Beavan, Sarah Woodfine and Paul Thomas that have all been exhibited in my gallery, most of which are works on paper.

What do you look for when choosing work for your gallery? (Twitter question from @ArtistRebeccaLS)

There are many artists whose work I  have consistently admired and so have been delighted to work with them to show new works – so in that sense I haven’t chosen the work but the artist. I’ve always worked with artists for whom drawing has been a really significant part of their practice; sometimes as the major part of their work and sometimes as part of the journey. When looking at the work of new and up to that point unknown artists I’m looking for something that shows originality, the implication of meaning beyond simply the appearance of the work and a commitment to the piece in hand. There are of course other intriguing and irresistible elements; skill in handling materials, evidence of struggle, new ways of seeing, humour, narrative, subversion and more.

How do you feel about the way the internet has changed the art world? The internet has obviously opened doors to many artists who may never have had the chance to be discovered. Do you think this is a good thing? (Facebook question from Graham Bradshaw)

Given the limited number of conventional places for artists to exhibit and show their work –  the development of places to see much, much more of what is current practice on the internet is both exciting and welcome – if you’re waiting for a gallery to show your work you could be waiting for ever; better to take the initiative and find your own ‘spaces’ to show – if this actually takes off for you it may be that galleries will follow…

Do you feel ithe Derwent Art Prize will have a positive impact on the perception of pencil art?

I’m anticipating that this Open Entry will do even more to improve the profile and significance of pencil as a drawing tool/medium.  The entry requirements, in terms of dimensions and scale, are quite open so hopefully we will have a very varied entry which will include both the traditional and the unconventional.

What tips would you give to anyone wanting to draw for a living or exhibit in a gallery?

The best place to start is at art school with hard work, persistence, some humility and a willingness to engage intellectually with the subject and its history.  Look at your place in the world and make it count. Don’t rely only upon what you can do and what you are good at… more is required to stand out.  And when you do find your voice and produce some really good work – make sure you don’t stick with it forever – take chances and change. Those artists who you consistently admire are always moving on.

And to get yourself noticed, keep trying for all the appropriate open competitions, if you’re successful things might well happen for you… but remember the competition for a place in the sun is enormous!

The Derwent Art Prize is open for entries until July 1st