The title of a new exhibition, Still is Still Moving, derives from a Willie Nelson song that goes on to say “And it’s hard to explain how I feel…” A metaphor, perhaps, for artist Tarka Kings’ 10-year experience with pencil that enabled her to capture elusive moments. “I am interested in the different marks: what they do, what they mean, how they make me feel,” says Kings, whose work features in the private collections of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Duke of Devonshire, art historian Susanne Kapoor and financier Jacob Rothschild. The show opens at London’s Offer Waterman gallery on Thursday May 24, running until Wednesday June 20, and includes over 20 new works on paper (£3,500-£48,000) – each a delicate evocation of an emotionally charged moment.
Some of the pieces are abstract: patterns of lines are created using just graphite and coloured pencil or finely patterned cut Japanese paper. Others use calligraphy in combination with drawing to communicate a particular thought or emotion. Then there are figurative works that include sensitive portraits of anonymous friends and family or potent moments from films.
It was on an artist’s residency in Ucross, Wyoming in 2008 that Kings made the decision to switch from gouache to pencil. “I like the dryness of drawing, and the sense of depth,” she says. “Using the marks seems to give more of a sense of reality than paint, even though they are more decorative.” Inspired in equal measure by Georges Seurat’s intense pointillist drawings and Gerhard Richter’s analytical and enigmatic works on paper, Kings has deployed a variety of pencil marks in this exhibition: straight lines, dots, furious squiggles, calmer serpentine lines, tile-like rectangles or small squares.
Each technique allows the image to emerge with a different emotional resonance. Some are created in black and white, while others, including the cinematic Gone Girl (£14,000), push the painterly effect of coloured pencil as far as it can go. “The work takes hours and hours,” Kings says. “It’s like sewing.” Another distinct feature of the collection is Kings’ use of the white paper sheet – sometimes placing the subject inside a square drawn onto a larger piece of paper, from which the drawing spills out. In School Girl (£14,000), a corner of an elbow and a lock of hair escape and revert to pencil lines. “I am very interested in edges and going outside them,” Kings says. However still the image – the pencil, as indeed the sitter, is still moving.