Lines of Empathy is a group show bringing together hand-drawn work on paper by 17 mid-career and established artists working in Britain today. The artworks in the exhibition are the subject of a new artist’s book, bearing the same title of the show, produced by the Italian, London-based, artist Giulia Ricci between 2020 and 2022.
In March 2020, during the first lockdown, Ricci revisited the idea for an exhibition of artworks on paper which had been on her mind for some time, only to realise that it wouldn’t be possible to do it in the near future given the uncertainty of the historical moment. The circumstances spurred her to initiate remote conversations with each artists about the individual pieces; these exchanges grew into an interview project and took the shape of a book concerned with the tactility and materiality of the chosen artworks. The topics explored in the book have been particularly poignant during the pandemic and the exhibition at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art brings together all these artworks for the first time in real life, offering a unique opportunity to understand the practice of each artists in depth, through their own words, while establishing exciting relationships between these artists’ works as identified by Ricci.
The title Lines of Empathy is a synthesis of the project’s main themes: on one hand the exploration of the process of mark-making while drawing on paper by hand, on the other, empathy as the act of reaching out into someone else’s experience. The invited artists have been asked to talk in detail about their chosen artwork on paper, with questions related to their choice of paper, media and processes used, their relationship with the body and the senses; they have also contributed their thoughts on the impact that the pandemic has had on their individual practices. The interview project has been informed by an interest in mirror neurons and empathy; the artworks have been considered as ‘vehicles’ for experiences which the viewers might feel a connection to.
Lines of Empathy has also been a personal journey for artist Giulia Ricci at a time of great collective uncertainty. Inspired by Carla Lonzi’s Autoritratto, originally published in Italy in 1969 and only recently translated into English, Lines of Empathy as a book and exhibition is ultimately a form of self-portrait through the acknowledgment of other artists’ practices that have influenced Ricci in her journey as a migrant from Italy to the UK over two decades.