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A Casey Study in Drawing Royal Underwear: Hidden Drawers

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date2017
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventIntersections: Body, Psyche, Skin, Environment - Royal College of Art, London
Duration: 3/02/20173/02/2017


SymposiumIntersections: Body, Psyche, Skin, Environment
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This paper presents a case study of the project Hidden Drawers which used drawing to examine items of underwear in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace between 2009 and 2012, resulting in an exhibition at the palace in 2013. The project set out to explore parallel between drawing and dress curation in our shared engagement with delicate or fugitive material. It was primarily concerned with testing and developing new languages of drawing that were adequate to an encounter with historic textiles, particularly those which were hidden, private or otherwise unseen. With curator Alexandra Kim, I examined a number of ‘intimate’ garments including Queen Victoria’s knickers and a waistcoat work by George III. The project came to focus around a collection of nightgowns that once belonged to Queen Alexandra. These had particular qualities of invisibility; intimate garments which are for the main part of their existence in the archive, out of sight, stored in their boxes, looking uncannily as if they are sleeping; half present, half absent.

Each drawing is a thin gauzy veil, made of waxed tissue a surface almost completely dematerialized. The barely visible marks, inseparable from the surface, are spidery white lines, forming a ghostly image of a life- size garment. The preservation or permanence of these images is contingent upon the conditions in which they are stored and the means by which they are handled and viewed. In this way, the drawings are deliberately vulnerable, an idea which runs completely contrarily to the notion of making a record. In doing so they play with concealing and revealing their subjects to a viewer and explore analogies between page and skin, an interstice between body and the world.

The presentation uses drawing to reflect on themes of privacy and intimacy of these personal items hidden away and also on conditions of touch. Considering drawing as an “archaeology of acts of touching” (Godfrey, 1992) or as means for “burrowing beneath the surface” (Berger 1992), presented fresh approach to how we might think about getting beneath the surface of a garment, literally and metaphorically.