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Review: The Art of Architecture

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Flora Neville is impressed with one Cambridge graduate’s transition from architecture to fine art

So many twenty-somethings shimmer out of school shining with A*s, sweep through university then slog away at ‘a nine to five’ that in reality is ‘a five to nine.’

In protest they are tempted to break out, write a sub-par novel, become a poet, a politician, move to Patagonia and herd sheep, (all case studies.) Sadly, it is rare that such boldness really comes good, and elaborate dreams fade into vague ideas of what to eat for lunch.

It therefore gave hope to wander around The Gallery on the Corner in Battersea last weekend, where 23 year old Minty Sainsbury was exhibiting her architectural drawings.

Not only is Sainsbury talented, her pictures were selling like hot cakes. Prices started at £115 and went up to around £3000, and there were little red sold stickers everywhere. She is now planning her second exhibition, taking commissions (an imaginary street of houses that the client has lived in), and she has only been living this artistic existence since March.

Sainsbury studied architecture at Cambridge ‘because I loved drawing and historical architecture,’ and she arrived at university without a laptop. Confounding the naysayers, she drew every plan by hand. Three ‘gruelling years of hard work’ later she graduated in 2013, top of the year and taking home the RIBA East Regions Prize to boot. She then worked in practice at Carmody Groarke, where it struck her that, ‘fine drawing did not feature in the professional environment of modern architectural practices.’

So she quit, went to Paris, and drew Le Marais.

Her drawings are quite simply very precise, very beautiful, very exact representations of classical buildings around Europe.

Her employment of the negative space in the street views is however arresting and unusual. She contrasts the intricate complexity of cathedrals and gothic churches with nothing but a thin outline of the buildings in the foreground.

They’re strangely understated, restful to look at and unique. Each brick is considered and shaded individually, and the biggest drawings take around 3 weeks to complete. These, Sainsbury says, are ‘the most addictive.’

Despite her own transition, Sainsbury is optimistic about the profession and the future for her comrades. They wouldn’t continue with architecture, she said, unless they were ‘one hundred percent committed,’ and ‘believed in the possible changes their work could make.’

The exhibition was packed with twenty-somethings in suits, impressed, with perhaps a tinge of envy that one of their number has jumped corporate ship and that her lone dinghy does not seem to be sinking.


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