Sketchbooks comprise some of the central works of Drawing Matter. Yet whenever we begin to consider the sketchbook three fundamental questions always seem to arise: How do we talk about a sketchbook? What constitutes a sketchbook? And how then does one display a sketchbook, when the viewer's desire is quite simply, to turn the page, something that is prohibited in an institutional or gallery setting.
We began an inquiry into the sketchbook in practice and on display in two ways: first by commissioning a series of writings for the website on particular sketchbooks and historical albums. Then, shortly thereafter in November 2017, we organised with Olivia Horsfall Turner, Senior Curator for Designs at the Victoria and Albert, a first symposium on the sketchbook. Held in the Prints and Drawing Room, curators, practitioners, gallerists and collectors gathered to speak about sketchbooks drawing from the V&A, RIBA and Drawing Matter collections. We looked at sketchbooks ranging from those by Nicholas Hawksmoor to those by Álvaro Siza and Adolfo Natalini.
We discovered that far more interesting than a typological investigation or an enquiry into the sketchbook as object, was a consideration of the sketchbook as a practice. The subsequent enquiries entitled Opening Lines embodied such lines of research and investigation, ultimately taking form in an exhibition Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects at the Tchoban Foundation for Architectural Drawings in Berlin and the four publications dedicated to the sketchbooks and sketching practices of Álvaro Siza, Adolfo Natalini, Tony Fretton and Níall McLaughlin.