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Jonathan Higgins used an artist’s residency at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ballycastle, Ireland, as an opportunity to explore metalpoint, a drawing technique that was developed in the Renaissance before the advent of the graphite pencil. Using a metal wire held in a stylus, the drawing is made on a receptive surface and traces of metal are left behind on it. Silver is traditionally used with this technique, though copper, brass, aluminum, lead, gold and other soft metals can be used. The drawing surface can be paper, board, wood, etc. and is prepared with white or tinted gesso or gouache.  Most metals used in metalpoint oxidize, which  changes the tone and contrast of the drawing. This tarnishing/transformation continues gradually over time depending on environmental conditions.

In my exploration of metalpoint I attempted to let the processes and materials become part of the subject of the work. In these drawings I used simple forms, line, repetition, pattern, fields of texture and tone, exploring and exploiting this medium and the possibilities it offers."

"Despite the challenges of the medium’s somewhat limited range of contrast and its permanence (marks once drawn cannot be erased), I found exploring this arcane technique to be thrilling; who can resist drawing with precious metals? To be working in metalpoint within the realm of contemporary abstraction adds an additional layer of interest for me as an artist, and suggests the potential of bringing new relevance to a Renaissance technique."

Jonathan Higgins