Annette Fernando’s China Series Drawings

Annette Fernando is a British-born, London-based artist with a French/Italian mother and Sri Lankan father. Born in 1991, she is a graduate of Central Saint Martins, with a BA in Fine Art. Fernando is this year’s Student Winner of the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize, which is the largest drawing competition in the UK, with 3,234 entrants this year. 

Despite her young age, Fernando has already been in fourteen exhibitions, two of which are currently in the UK: The Jerwood Drawing Prize (touring the country at various venues) and Drawing Breath at the Graham Hunter Gallery in Baker Street, London. Her work is also being displayed at an international exhibition in France at La Porte Peinte Centre Pour Les Arts from October 2014 to December 2015.

Fernando reflects on a series of intimate drawings that she completed during her travels in 2012, the China Series. In an exclusive for Nee Hao Magazine, she provides her insights on her methods and inspirations behind the drawings.

China Series II
Fernando’s drawings display a keen eye for detail and a mastery for fine sketching.
The China Series is a set of biro drawings, made after my visit there in 2012.  Having travelled to Nanjing, Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, I saw many people that piqued my interest. The work is based on photographs that I took of people living their daily lives, them mostly being unaware of me taking their picture, which allowed me to really capture something special. I ended up with a very strong series, observing the everyday from the outside.


The most interesting thing for me about the project was the people, which is why I chose to focus entirely on drawing them, leaving the backgrounds unfinished. Working primarily in the medium of drawing is a way of personalising my work and putting myself into it, with the material I use being especially significant. The biro is often seen as a throw away object, but to me it is a means to make work with the resources I have. Drawing is a self-taught practice, and when I was younger, I drew using any pen and paper I found. I love how this still applies today: I can just pick up a biro and create a powerful image.

China Series III
Her drawings are striking, making use of light and dark for full effect.
I am highly influenced by cinema. The photographs that I took in China were scenes I felt were ‘cinematic’ in everyday life. Many different inspirations fed into the work: I remember at the time of making these pieces I was feeling deeply inspired by Chinese director Zhangke Jia’s film Still Life and looking at the work of artists like Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall and Balthus’s painting The Street.
Beijing particularly was a huge inspiration for me.
China Series XII
The people are emphasised in Fernando’s drawings for maximum effect and insight into their lives for that given moment.

Beijing particularly was a huge inspiration for me, the highlight of my China travels being Beijing’s 798 Art District. At the time of my visit, Damien Hirst had his New Religion exhibition at ‘Asian Art Works’, and I was impressed by China’s contemporary art scene. I was also quite taken by Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art. It was there that I came across the works of Chinese artists Wang Ningde and Weng Fen, whom are now two of my favourite artists, influencing even my current works. The ‘China Series’ of drawings was a turning point for me and led me to the work I tend to be associated with: the Wait a Minute. It’s the Truth and the Truth Hurts series. These are ink drawings created from moments in film that I personally resonated with.

China Series V
The gentle sketching of the background is effective in placing the subjects in a context, but does not take away from them.
Currently, I am continuing with drawings for the Wait a Minute. It’s the Truth and the Truth Hurts series and starting a new art zine called Drawn to Ink in collaboration with the artist Orwellx. In 2015, I am planning to return to Asia to visit Taiwan, Sri Lanka and India, to see what new inspirations and influences they hold, and hopefully to have future exhibitions there.
China Series IV
Fernando bases her drawings in the China Series on her own photographs of her trip.
China Series XV
Fernando’s drawings present a unique way of capturing people in their environment.

All of the work discussed in this article including the ‘China Series’ can be found on Fernando’s website and Facebook page

Fernando will be exhibiting the China Series again at the Angel Christmas Fair, Candid Arts Trust, London, 6th-7th of December 2014 and will also be exhibiting at the Barcelona International Art Fair, 12th-13th December, 2014 at the historic Casa Batlló, in Barcelona, Spain.

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