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Durham University

Art Collection

ONLINE Pushing Paper: Contemporary drawing from 1970 to now

A British Museum touring exhibition

Pushing Paper: Contemporary drawing from 1970 to now

Welcome to the online resources for Pushing Paper: contemporary drawing from 1970 to now. The physical exhibition at the Oriental Museum may currently be closed, but we have created some DIY activities, alongside a virtual tour and exhibition films to watch online or download for later. Using these materials and films you can find out more about the artworks and get inspired to create your own.

Pushing Paper: Contemporary drawing from 1970 to now

Pushing Paper: Contemporary drawing from 1970 to now

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Pushing Paper illustrates how artists experiment with the power of paper to express their ideas, pushing the medium in new directions.

Amongst the oldest forms of human creativity, drawing is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as artists increasingly choose the medium as a means to examine the modern world, with topics ranging from explorations of gender and political activism to questions of belonging and human sexuality.

For the first time, the British Museum has co-curated this exhibition with partner museums from around the UK. In a new way of working, curatorial staff from partner museums collaborated with the British Museum to decide on themes within the exhibition and to research and select the works on display, as well as contribute chapters to the accompanying catalogue. Curators from the partner museums involved in the project included our Curator of Western Art at Durham University.

Pushing Paper investigates five key themes:

Power & Protest - The artists in our first theme process and question the turbulent world around us, acting as enablers for change and asking whether a drawing has the power to change the world.

Systems & Process - One thing all the drawings in Pushing Paper have in common is the use of a line. From this simple line, different movements and ways of creating have emerged, but drawing remains key to the fundamental basics.

Place & Space - The earliest surviving drawings, made in prehistoric caves, show how humans have always been fascinated with turning an empty ‘space’ into a ‘place’; imbuing it with meaning and marking their presence.

Identity - Throughout history, individuals have invariably sought to situate themselves as part of a greater whole. Everyone has multiple identities based on religion, race, politics, language, culture, profession, sexuality, and gender to name a few.

Time & Memory - One of the oldest forms of creativity is making a comeback as more artists choose drawing as a way to examine today’s world. Time and Memory explores the use of drawing to depict the marking of time, evoking the memories of the artists and viewers.

Film photography by Matt Jaworski,


FREE exhibition and activity downloads