‘Come on by and draw on my wall,’ says HallSpace Gallery‘s John Colan

Most parents at one point or another warn their progeny not to draw on the wall. However, John Colan, owner and curator of the HallSpace Gallery at 950 Dot Ave., has a very different message. He encourages drawing on his walls and an increasing number of prestigious artists, among them several Dorchester residents, are eager to oblige.

Colan, an assistant graphics professor at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, has invited and continues to invite “interested artists and others who draw” to participate in a visual experiment dubbed the HallSpace Drawing Project as a fundraiser for the gallery. Though “no portfolio is required,” all who have volunteered so far are professionals.

Colan covered the walls of his gallery with drawing paper and marked off 252 numbered twelve-inch squares, leaving aesthetically adequate room between the squares. Those who volunteer to participate randomly draw a number and must use the square corresponding to that number. The more ambitious/prolific may fill several squares. However, all drawing/painting/ mixed media layering must be done on site. 

Artists who live close to HallSpace have been among the first to sign up: Bill Flynn, Ellen Haiken, Masako Kamiya and Judith Brassard Brown. Pearl Street’s Brown, who also teaches at Montserrat, produced “More Smoke Than…,” a delicate mixed media image from her current “Other” Landscapes series. When asked why she creates, she replied, “[I] have to. It’s my job. Seems I draw at every opportunity. [It] helps me figure it all out.”

Fellow Pearl Street dweller Kamiya simply entitled her gouache on paper “Breathe,” while Savin Hill’s Flynn named his “Pages from one to another.” So far, Haiken, who lives practically on top of the gallery, has done four pieces including a graphite and oil stick of a man’s dress shirt on a hanger, intriguingly called “Ashworth.”

Artists spend an average of four hours executing their drawings. For many it’s a challenge working upright against a wall, perhaps perched on an A-frame. For others accustomed to the silence of their studios, the sounds of fellow artists and chatty visitors may distract.

The project is still ongoing, but even so Colan sees the pieces coming together as a sort of giant quilt or mosaic. In his prospectus, he said, “Within the gallery, each of the drawings will be one part of a larger work of art. The whole drawing will be an installation in progress until all 252 squares have been used. The outcome is unknown. What will the whole look like? Will it work?”   

On Sat., Sept. 6, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the public can attend the opening reception where they can view and purchase what has been done so far. However, many squares will remain unfilled and artists are welcome to sign up for spots all the way through Oct. 4.

At the conclusion of the show, drawings will be cut out and distributed. Drawings will be sold throughout the exhibition for a reasonable $50, and artists will receive a fifty percent commission.

But as the artists have been eying the creations of their confreres, they are snapping up these bargains for their own collections. Colan reports that even members of the general public are buying works sight unseen, reporting “One person called me up and said, ‘If so-and-so is doing a piece, I’ve already bought it!’ ” Any unsold drawings may be picked up by the artist after October 11. 

Colan is considering preserving this project by creating a postshow catalog. You can follow the development of HallSpace Drawing Project on Tumblr. Contact the gallery, hallspace1@aol.com, or call 617-288-2255 to make an appointment to draw.