Drawing Now: Between the Lines of Contemporary Art

Summary of Introduction

This is an exhibition in book form, with images selected by TRACEY, an on-line peer-reviewed journal hosted by Loughborough University (School of Art & Design). It follows on from the 2003 exhibition The Stage of Drawing which focused on perspectives that aligned drawing with thinking and ideas rather than appearance. Drawing Now develops this discussion by looking at drawings since the year 2000 and emphasising two key aspects – the performative (that the process of making contributes to the drawing content) and the speculative.

Drawing is traditionally seen as a medium that shows the perceived visual appearance of the world. However, since drawing is about both the visual and the thought process, the distinction between the objective and the subjective are conflated and confused. Drawing Now looks at two parallel discussions on drawings – that of appearance and perception, and that of conception.

In Playing with Appearance Drawing Now presents the view of Berger that there are three types of drawing – appearance, communicating ideas and memory (with the latter two requiring at least some memory of observation). It goes on to discuss how drawing moves between:

  • studying the visible (present tense)
  • reference (past and memory)
  • projection (future tense and what is absent)

From this the artist restores invisibility to memory, making visible what is unbeseen; it is this aspect of drawing which is the focus of the images that were selected to be included in the book. The drawings move away from the visual appearance instead showing the use or experience of something – giving appearance to a thought.

In the Hypothesis of Sight the book considers the moment at which the pencil makes contact with the paper when we cannot see what is about to emerge and yet the point anticipates the memory of what we have seen in the past. It both stops and anticipates what is to come.

It goes on to look at the two approaches to drawing, the first where the artist is immersed in the activity of drawing with conscious decision-making, unconscious compulsion and the synthesis of addition/subtraction – the performative; the second approach which is a more rational application of the imaginary – the speculative.

The book also presents the view of Derrida that drawing hypothesises and drawing therefore demonstrates oppositional conditions and proposes concepts that are neither proved or disproved, neither true or false. The ‘thoughts of drawings’ do not describe or report and cannot be verified.

Reflection

I found the introduction of the book presenting the overall premise for the selection of the drawings very thought provoking. As someone who has come to the course essentially drawing the visual appearance of objects, the idea of my drawings showing my experience or ideas about things, both real and imaginary, is quite challenging. I am familiar with conceptual art, where the idea is the art, however, it was never something I had thought I would consider for my own drawings. Also, I found the performative aspect of drawing interesting and in some ways can see this in the frottage and collages of Max Ernst where you can see that the process of making has contributed to the content of the drawing. The discussions in this introduction has certainly made me think about how I will approach the exercises and assignments in the course.

A review of selected drawings from the book will appear in later posts.

Bibliography

Downs, Marshall, Sawdon, Selby & Towney (eds.) (2007) ‘Drawing Now: Between the Lines of Contemporary Art’. London; I.B.Tauris

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Author: gbond1104

Studying Drawing 1 as my first course on a BA (Hons) in Painting

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