Drawing Now: Eight Propositions

This book is of the exhibition Drawing Now:  Eight Propositions, organised by Laura Hoptman at MOMA in 2002/03.  Unlike like the previous set book, Drawing Now:  Between the Lines of Contemporary Art, this book moves away from process driven drawing (where the drawing can be found through the process of making) and looks at the drawings as finished works (a depiction of something that is imagined before it is drawn).   The drawings are therefore finished works, autonomous and to some degree representational (Hoptman, 2002).

The drawings are arranged in Eight Propositions which arranges the drawings both into a kind of taxonomy and a history of recent practice.  In this post I will pick out one artist from each of the propositions.

Proposition One:  Science and art, nature and artifice

Russell Crotty, Five Nocturnes.1996

Russell Crotty makes drawings of his astronomical observations.  In these two drawings I am especially struck by the seemingly simple nature of the composition of the silhouette of the plants in one and telescopes in the other, against the quite complex mark making to build the image.  The plants reach for the stars (the sun) during the day whilst the telescopes reach for the stars at night.  The drawings make me want to lie on the ground and look at the vastness of the night sky.

Proposition Two:  Ornament and crime: towards decoration

In this section I was immediately drawn to Untitled, 1999, a gouache on wall drawing at The Drawing Centre, New York.  I like the way the drawing is fitted into the corner and the bold red stripe  contrasts with the geometric design of the black lines.  It almost looks like a piece of fabric has been stuck to the wall.

Proposition Three:  Drafting an architecture

Julie Mehretu uses architectural plans in her drawings, layering fragments together to create a complex new image.  In Untitled, 2000 parts of these plans seem to funnel down a circular building atrium-like structure.  The energy in the image is helped by the coloured directional lines which are layered onto the drawing.  This drawing appeals to me as the more you look at the mass of complex detailed shapes the more you see whilst at the same time the drawing retains an overall structure.

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Julie Mehretu, Untitled, 2000

 

Proposition Four:  Drawing Happiness

The drawings Nobson Central, 1998-99 and Nobspital 1997-98, by Paul Noble caught my attention in this section.  The imagination to create a whole city and then individual buildings in that city is quite incredible.  I really enjoy his attention to detail and the way your eye travels around the buildings finding new things to consider.  I also like the way the word of the drawing has been incorporated into the form of the building.

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Paul Noble, Nobspital, 1997-98

Proposition Five: Mental maps and metaphysics

Matthew Ritchie creates an alternative narrative for the beginning of life from the view of one person, the artist.  I really like the almost ethereal nature of the draw images overlaid with the mind map text covering things such as bacteria, archaea, cult of the head, burial etc.

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Proposition Six:  Popular culture and national culture

The watercolours of Kai Althoff (Untitled 2000) really stood out for me in this section.  I think the muted colour palette and the blurry, slightly translucent nature of the figures, give the pictures a sense of mystery and make me want to know the story behind the images.

Proposition Seven:  Comics and other subcultures

Barry McGee is a graffiti artist who also exhibits his work in galleries as a mass of individually framed pictures.  He deploys a whole range of drawing styles, texts and photographs, building a larger overall image from the smaller pictures.  Your eye moves around the image, stopping on certain individual frames then moving on trying to make a connection between the individual elements.

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Barry McGee, Untitled (detail), 1998-2002

Proposition Eight:  Fashion, likeness, and allegory

Elizabeth Peyton’s images of young people in fashion poses would not normally be a subject matter I like, however, the watercolour and coloured pencils drawing in the book have an arresting beauty.  In Spencer, 1999, there is a variety of mark marking to define the form and blocks of colour to hold the image onto the page.

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Conclusion

This book shows a wide variety of work across a number of genres, tracing finished, largely autonomous, drawings at the time of the exhibition.  It gave me much to think about and look at incorporating into my future practice including using my imagination more in creating an image, layering drawings, building up complex images from a series of simpler images, etc.

One thing I did not like in the book was the sort of hierarchy implied by the eight propositions – drawings drafting an architecture (proposition three) being ‘superior’ to those on fashion, likeness and allegory (proposition eight).  It reminded me of the hierarchy of genres imposed by the French Académie de peinture et de sculpture.

Drawing Now: Between the Lines of Contemporary Art

A Selection of Works

Nayland Blake, Untitled, Charcoal on paper, (2000).

 At first glance this looked like a rabbits head to me, then I saw the dark black foreground is a torso with the arms raised; in the lighter background image I could just make out a face.  There are three white ‘holes’ on the torso, what do these mean?  Are they bullet holes in a black anonymous man, are they portholes into the inner man, are they flaws we all have?; are the arms raised in protest or surrender?

This seemingly simple drawing raises a lot of questions for the me and the more I look, the more I think about what it means and the ideas behind the drawing.

Julie Brixey-Williams, Locationotation Series, Graphite Powder on watercolour paper, (2001).

I really like the simplicity of the images in this series against the complexity of the process.  There are eight drawings depicted in the book from a series of 52 pirouette drawings performed simultaneously by 52 dancers at 11.30 am on Saturday 9th June 2001 at various locations.  The process of getting 52 dancers to perform all at the same time and then bring all the images back together is clearly an important part of this artwork.  The resultant images whilst they are similar are all individual as well, reflected the the nature of the dancer themselves, part of a dance company but all individual dancers.  The organic nature of the images, coupled with the tightness or looser nature of the pirouette image and the texture of the surface, make these interesting images in themselves.

Brian Fay, Woman Meditating after Corot, Digital drawing on paper, (2005)

There is a slow emergence of the figure from the seemingly disjointed marks which at first do not define the form.  This drawing shows how line does not have to follow the outline of the form to create a recognisable image.  Is the drawing a comment on the current position of women in society – in the background slowing trying to emerge, marginalised, undervalued?

Maryclare Foa, Manhattan Trace, 31st December 2003, 16 miles approx. (18.65 kilometres), Raw Hertfordshire chalk on New York pavement, (2003)

This temporary drawing of pulling a piece of chalk on a string (lead) on a walk around New York is an interesting idea and an interesting process.  It brings to mind the temporary nature of our impact on a place we visit and the interactions we have on the way.  I like the process in this piece of art and the question it raises about what is the art – the process of the drawing by dragging the chalk, the marks themselves or is it the photographs of the process?  I find it interesting that Foa has specifically cited the origin of the chalk as if she is bringing the country to the city.

Dean Hughes, A paper bag with some stickers stuck inside it, Brown paper bag, adhesive stickers, (2006)

This is another piece which questions the nature of drawing – is this drawing, a sculpture, an art installation – does it matter?  Not sure what the artist was saying but I felt the bag represents us and the stickers the things we pick up during life which become part of us and help us become more whole.  I also liked the fact that the an ordinary brown paper bag and some coloured stickers could become a work of art and that it is the idea the art generates in the viewer that is important not the art materials themselves.

David Shrigley, Untitled, Ink on paper, (2005)

The drawing of someone at a computer screen with the message, You have no fucking emails,  made me laugh as it reminded me of work where some people continually check their emails and feel their status is defined by the number of emails they receive – the more emails the more important you must be.  I like the comic graphic art nature of the drawing.

 

This is a book which I will continually return to throughout the course.  Whilst I am just at the beginning of the course, it has already made me think more both about my process and the idea behind my art.  It has also really brought to the fore the fact that a drawing does not need to be of an object (its visual appearance) or technically highly accomplished in order covey a message to the viewer.

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

Georgie Meadows: Stitched Drawings

This exhibition of machine stitched line drawings shows the consequences of ageing and dementia on people Georgie Meadows has encountered in her work as an occupational therapist.

The line drawings, mostly in black thread on three layers of cloth (two layers of thin calico-like material separated by a layer of wadding) are really well observed. In one image, of a carer helping their partner to stand, you can almost see the weight being transferred from the partner to the carer. In other drawings long strands of threads are left hanging which brings a freer gestural quality to the drawing and also seems to represent the tangled memories associated with dementia. The fabric of some drawings, particularly when depicting a head on a pillow, is slightly discoloured which to me represented the strains from the head left after long periods in bed.

I left the exhibition with mixed feelings. The drawings are excellent but at the same time the subject matter I found depressing – is this what is awaiting me? It also brings into focus the very current issue of our attitude to ageing as a society, resources for the care of the elderly and the role of the carer. Finally, it highlighted the question of what is drawing and the need to be all encompassing in that definition.

Venue: The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

Artists Website:  here

 

Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences

I visited this exhibition of the six tapestries created during the filming of the documentary ‘All in the Best Possible Taste’. Grayson Perry was inspired by William Hogarth’s ‘A Rake’s Progress’ as the tapestries follow the progress of a fictional modern day character, Tim Rakewell.  The narrative through the six tapestries is how your ‘class’ within the modern age is defined by both your taste and ability to purchase a certain type of product; therefore you can move through the class system by purchasing items associated with a particular class. In effect, consumerism is defining the group to which you belong.

The six tapestries, with titles that refer back to religious works, are:

The Adoration of the Cage Fighters

The Agony in the Car Park

Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close

The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal

The Upper Classes at Bay

Lamentation

The first thing that struck me on entering the gallery was the vibrant colours, large size and the illustrative nature of the images in the tapestries. As well as the story of the characters, the colours used in the tapestries linked the series, particularly a vivid red and pink. Also, motifs such as Make Tea, Not War in The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal and No War but Class War in The Upper Class at Bay, provide a visual link.  At first the narrative presented by Grayson Perry seems quite obvious, however, the more I looked at them the more I saw, even down to the use of tapestry itself as a medium which was at one time only owned by the upper classes.

I think the depiction of popular cultural items (references to shopping, soap operas, etc.) and the stylised drawings is both a comment by the artist on the nature of modern society and a deliberate move to engage wider general public who may not normally visit galleries.

Venue:  The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury, Kent