The Open Air Drawing Room

Eric MacLennan

  • 26th Jul - 5th Sept 2021
  • Stephen Lawrence Gallery

The Open Air Drawing Room is an example of socially engaged art practice. The work crosses boundaries between performance and painting. Conceived as a celebration of the collective effort through a combination of performance and painting, The Open Air Drawing Room was originally co-commissioned by the Turner Contemporary ( in Margate and Applause Rural Touring (

A Show Of Hands by Eric MacLennan, 2020. Turner Contemporary, Margate (Photo credit: Eric MacLennan)
Collection Of Thirty-One Stones For Thirty-One Shipping Areas by Eric MacLennan, 2019. London (Photo credit: Eric MacLennan)

By creating a monumental painting, it offers participants the opportunity to engage with a large scale work which aims to set the world record for a painting created by the largest number of artists ever. The work is inspired by the innovative techniques of JMW Turner and the ideas of John Ruskin. Ever-evolving, it was first exhibited at Turner Contemporary in 2019. It comprised two pieces: “A Sea Of Faces”, a large-scale painting produced by combining over 500 individual watercolours into a single harmonious whole; “A Show Of Hands”, an extensive photographic installation of all the contributors’ hands displayed together on the gallery terrace.

In the summer of 2021, these two installations will be exhibited at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich Galleries, by which time the work will be twice as large, with over a thousand individual contributions. Every contributor paints a stone from the same collection of thirty-one stones that correspond to the thirty-one shipping areas around the British Isles. A stone that was once a mountain. A stone that—like us—is in a state of transition. A stone that will one day be a grain of sand on a beach somewhere. These stones were old when Turner was young and they will still be here when we are gone.

Exhibition opens

26th July – 5th September 2021

Private View

25th July 2021, 2 – 4 pm

The Open Air Drawing Room by Eric MacLennan in performance, 2019. Almeida Theatre, London (Photo credit: Ali Wright)
The Open Air Drawing Room by Eric MacLennan in performance, 2019. Almeida Theatre, London (Photo credit: Ali Wright)

Explore a short film about The Open Air Drawing Room and the “A Sea of Faces” installation (both firstly exhibited at the Turner Contemporary between October 2019 – January 2020):

The Open Air Drawing Room is led by Eric MacLennan ( A socially engaged artist whose practice occupies a unique space somewhere between theatre, movement and the visual arts, Eric has been making innovative performance work for more than thirty years. His work is cutting-edge with a clear focus on its audience. Challenging and provocative, but always entertaining. Inspired by philosophy and comedy in equal measure, his work questions our unconscious habits, challenges conventions and isn’t afraid to say the unsayable!