Frances Drayson | Lathe of Heaven

24 Sep 2019 – 27 Oct 2019

Lily Brooke

England, United Kingdom


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Drayson’s practice spans a wide range of disciplines, exploring possibilities of dissent through or in spite of mediation.


For her solo show at Lily Brooke, Drayson develops an interest in queering patriarchal mythologies, aesthetics and territorial practices of the British and Roman empires. Coded references to the bucolic, the theatrical and authoritarianism mix uncomfortably in new assemblages, sculpture and video.

In the gallery, Drayson presents Tenuse Hoo, a large sculpture of two wolf heads lying on a wooden pallet. The heads are cast from an open-source 3D scan of the Capitoline Wolf, a cast bronze sculpture which is itself a composite of additions from various time-periods. The wolf is attributed to 11-12th century AD, whereas the suckling Romulus and Remus figures were added later during the Renaissance. The sculpture is a depiction of the founding myth of Rome, and by extension of the supposed root of Western 'civilisation'. 

Benito Mussolini was particularly fond of the sculpture and commissioned its replication as propaganda for his 'New Rome’. 

Drayson has enlarged the wolf mother's face and isolated it from its body and suckling boys. It demands that we scrutinise its expression, which seems both agonised and oddly blank. The neck and mouth are modelled to appear extruded from- or disintegrating into- a mass of soft clay.  Both heads are skewered with rods of faux fur, as if in the beginning of a chain. The rods violate but also connect the pair, becoming extensions of their absent bodies; the doubling of the head paradoxically undermines and bolsters; the pallet below suggests a chain of commerce, with its lower beams clad in clipped and compressed hay. 

The duality of the wolfs heads is then mirrored on the walls by Plot of Land I, Plot of Land II. Partially imagined and traced line drawings of the continents and supercontinents are layered on neon acrylic. Multiple hands support, obscure and grasp at the maps, some cut at the wrist, others with military sleeves in crude cardboard. Sleeves and skin are painted in an approximation of caucasian skin, with a neon yellow cast. Their simplified forms are influenced by both Catholic murals and fashion illustration. The absurd and hazy conflation of vast spaces and periods of time in a collage matches the stylised flattening of skin, clothing and bodies into emblems.  

Alongside these works Drayson presents White Jazz Apogees 1,2,3,4 in the viewing room. Four short texts appear on a white screen composed of shifting grids of faded colour. Interludes between texts are filled with fragments of a jazz track. Jazz, a genre representing improvisation and pleasurable discordance, is quoted by computer software. The track's automation leaves telling tail echoes at the end of each fragment. Each text takes a different time period and address: singular, plural, female, male and finally automobile. The viewer is frustrated in looking for continuity within the texts' grouping, in contrast to the continual slow cycling of their gridded backdrop.

A text by Rebecca Jagoe accompanies the exhibition.


Frances Drayson (b. 1986 London) studied at Royal Academy Schools and Slade School of Fine Art. Recent exhibitions include: Class of 2019 at Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Hive Mind at Koppel Project, London, London; 1+1=3 [in the bubble] at Museion, Italy; Merry Widows at White Cubicle, London; Iterare! Iterare! at URBANEK, London; Addams Outtakes at Roaming Projects, London. Drayson was the recipient of the Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac Travel Prize and the Gilbert Bayes Grant, both in 2019.

Exhibiting artists

Frances Drayson


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