4.As you tell the story – draw. Leave drawings incomplete as narrative moves on.
What I mainly took from the Drawing Ambiguity article, ‘Honks, Horns, Howls and Laughter’ written by karl Hyde is that he uses photography and drawing as others might use a written diary. He notes moments from his journeys with his camera , sometimes on tour with his band, and to relieve his boredom. Later these ‘snaps’ remind him of his travels and some are developed into equally quick and instantaneous drawings. My impression was that he uses drawing, not for thinking so much as for recording his glimpses of places that he passes: impressions of things we might not normally notice except from the corner of an eye. Human beings are absent from these recordings, but human presence is everywhere, for example in a white line painted on the road.
I decided for this exercise to use drawing to think about ‘The Machine Stops’ – a short story by E. M. Forster. I chose this because I am considering using the line ‘Only Connect’ for my assignment 5 site specific project for the phone box in Settle. Only Connect is the epitaph for ‘Howard’s End’ and I understand that a major theme is the disconnect between nature v. industry and people who represent either one or the other, and therefore have problems relating.
‘The Machine Stops’ is a development of Howard’s theme and about a dystopian world in which everyone lives in a one-person cell underground and everything they need is provided by a machine. It has become taboo to touch another human being and all communication takes place through a cell phone – prescient since this was written in 1928. ‘The Machine’ has become God – everyone is very busy and in a hurry – the ‘protagonist’ of the story can barely give her son, taken from her at birth, five minutes, because she has lectures to give and lectures to listen to (online of course and they must never be first hand, but best if third or fourth or even tenth hand). Her son has found a way to the surface of the earth, and not only does he not die, but he finds other human beings live up there and the world is not the dust bowl he had been lead to believe.
I found the idea of drawing while I read the story very challenging indeed. I started by doing what I believe the exercise asks of me: drawing extremely quickly as I read the story out loud.
Reflection on first quick sketches
I like the sketches more than I thought I would before I started drawing them. I think some interesting ideas came out of the exercise that I had not thought of when I first read the story. For example, I like the posture of the mother comforting the son in the very final drawing, and I like the tenderness of the mother thinking about holding her baby. I also like some of the very crudest figures, for example, the figures in the curled shapes in the next row up from the bottom, who are feeling pain because euthenasia is so longer working.
I used rather a lot of writing because I just think that some of the lines that E.M. Forster uses are so brilliant that I didn’t want to lose them. However, I could probably cut down on the amount of writing and do some editing to leave only the most crucial of lines e.g Vashti was terrified of direct experience.
I used scale to some extent, for example some drawings are very close up, including the drawing of Vashti crying as she thinks about her son with a mixture of sadness and disgust at his actions. And again with the foot, hands and body as Kuno realises that ‘Man is the Measure’. Other drawings are from a longer distance away, for example, the drawing of the forrest and decaying city from the air – others are more mid-shot. I generally stuck to the same style of drawing – a kind of diagramatic, narrative style.
I think that what works best is that the drawings are quite expressive – I feel I captured emotion quite well – for example, Vashti’s feelings about her baby, about visiting the nursery, about visiting her son in his room – I particularly like, for example, the way she turns her head away from him and puts her arms behind her back, whereas he reaches out for her, as he does when she visits him in the nursery. I also like her turning away from the airship attendant who reaches out to steady her when she flinches away from the sunbeam on board the airship. I feel I have managed to make Vashti into a complex person.
In terms of making more spontaneous lines and marks – I don’t think that mark making is a strength of these drawings.Because I drew with biro, and also because I could not linger – I used only line.
The idea of juxtaposing a highly finished drawing alongside an urgently scribbled drawing is a very interesting one and something I would be keen to experiment with. I can certainly see the value of quick sketches like these as first steps in exploring a subject/getting to know what interests you about the subject. I am keen to explore this further.
Research drawing methods that take a lot of time. Eg shading, hatching, hyperrealism
Draw something that benefits from time spent on it. Take time and labour!
Reflect on what happened. NB. This doesn’t have to be one big drawing! It could be one small drawing each day.
Eurica – I would like to try more metal point and when searching for a ground that contained neither animal nor plastic (therefore no acrylic gesso or casein grounds) I came across Plike paper. This would make a silverpoint drawing extremely environmentally and animal friendly – the paper is 100%` recyclable and biodegradable and silverpoint is also obviously tree free, animal free, plastic free and sustainable since one small piece of silver practically lasts forever. See description of Plike paper below from Blick web:
‘Plike, a name derived from “plastic-like,” is an innovative, unique paper with a smooth, pleasant touch evocative of both plastic and rubber.
An ecological response to the industry’s use of plastic materials, Plike offers the simplicity and versatility of traditional paper, yet appeals to those designers who look for new sensations and sensuous inspirations.
Machine-made in Italy of 100% sulphite, Plike is great for charcoal, pastel, and silverpoint. Its myriad applications include offset lithography, silkscreen, thermography, blind embossing, and foil stamping.’
After three hours of searching I finally found you can buy Plike reasonably cheaply here:https://www.pdacardandcraft.co.uk/plike-330gsm.html but only in black and white (although in both weights, and in larger sizes, e.g. A3 and customs size). While G. F. Smith sell all colours, and both weights, but only in A4 or smaller.
Unfortunately the largest size I can find in the UK is A3 but that’s a start! I have added this info to my ‘research report’ on environmentally and vegan supports and medium.
For this exercise on labour and time I decided to do a drawing using two sizes of sliverpoint on A3 Plike to understand more about how to use silverpoint. One interesting thing about silverpoint is that it cannot be erased and any mark made is permanent – this requires more precision and patience than I am accustomed to. It is not possible to shade with silverpoint either so detailed hatching is the obvious technique for darker areas, but I hope to use a variety of marks. My small and quick experiment with silverpoint on Plike for exercise 4.1 of the same Disney concert hall in LA was completed a month ago, and is only just beginning to oxidise and has slightly turned brown, and so I imagine that the whole process of oxidation will take several months – by which time I hope to have finished EDM. I have chosen the Disney concert hall again because I think that the shapes are lovely and not difficult to draw, while offering possibilities for differnent mark making to emphasise their differences.
I plan to spend approximately 16 hours on this drawing. Here it is after four hours. I am getting the hang of silverpoint on this beautiful paper and finding I don’t have to press as hard as I had previously thought:
And after 8 hours:
Here it is after 12 hours. I can see a definite change in the colour as it starts to oxidise, especially when I compare the new marks to marks made several weeks ago.
I played around with it in iphoto just for fun – it gives a rather clearer idea of the differences in mark making. How lovely if the silver oxidised to this extent!
The finished A3 drawing after 16 hours hard labour:
Here are a couple of cropped versions of the same drawing to show the lines more clearly.
Reflection on what happened
I wonder if working slowly is more, or just as, useful for thinking as working quickly (eg as in the next exercise: 4.3). This process made me think about how everything is society is fast and quick – we don’t have time for anything (a major theme of ‘The machine stops’ – see next exercise). This exercise demands that you work slowly. Precision and care are probably not as valued in some areas of society as speed, the throw away, and minimal effort for maximum reward. I wonder if, like the Slow Food movement, there is also a Slow Art movement?
Working slowly takes concentration and dedication/determination. Perhaps concentration is getting more difficult in the internet era – which encourages us to ‘dip in and out’ and gather superficial information at the expense of deep understanding and critical engagement – which takes sustained engagement and effort. I certainly found it tiring! (I don’t mean this in a negative way).
Silverpoint forces you to slow down and was a good choice of medium for this exercise. It became quite meditative.
Working slowly means that you focus on one small area of a drawing at a time – you pay attention to detail rather than the whole, and this may or may not be a good thing.
silverpoint is a fine drawing technique- one does not battle with the question of whether one is doing a drawing or a painting!
Silverpoint on Plike is both environmentally and animal friendly. (NB this is not usually the case because of the materials used for the preparation of the paper for silverpoint)
Silverpoint on Plike is certainly not an ephemeral technique and nor does it produce work that will perish fairly soon – I would say it is pretty time proof – indeed it will change and improve with time and will not fade . These qualities could be used in conjunction with works on the theme of time
it is possible to get fine gradations of line with different weight silver, although very fine silver wire must be used more gently than I used it – otherwise the wire bends and breaks quite easily. A fine line makes extremely detailed drawing easily achievable.
it’s vital not to be tempted to rush this – unless of course one wants a flyaway line.
it is possible to combine other media with silverpoint (see the link below) for example with graphite and watercolour and I should explore these combinations.
Just a reminder of what the Master Genius – Leonardo da Vinci achieved when he did a quick sketch for a painting in silverpoint!
Here is a link written by a contemporary silverpoint artist about his work (Gerrit Verstraete) and one of his beautiful silverpoint drawings below: http://www.gverstraete.com/?page_id=4
Silverpoint is perfect if one wants a delicate finish. And the work above is beautifully delicate, as are the colours. Verstraete uses Gesso to prepare his ground which he tints with gouache – previously he used flat white latex paint. A main problem of silverpoint drawing is that artists often still use casein (the old Masters used bone mixed with rabbit skin glue or casein – see more on casein below). Golden also make a special preparation for metalpoint, but it too, like Gesso or latex paint, is plastic based and not ideal for the environment. Verstraete has also used, I think, a little watercolour and graphite above.
Another contemporary silverpoint artist is Tom Mazullo. Here is information: http://www.tommazzullo.com/more-about-silverpoint.html
Note that Mazullo uses Plaka – a casein based paint that he colours with pigment. NB Casein is the protein found in milk. In my view the value of contemporary art that is built on the exploitation and torture of other beings should now be questioned – the old Masters were not in the position we are today, where making the kind choice is easy.
I can see that silverpoint is also excellent for producing a gauzy cobweb effect or a ghostly line. See for example the portraits of Michael Nichol’s – this is very useful in terms of the themes of absence and ephemerality:
1.Make a list of as many different mark making processes as you can think of.
2. Make a list of as many different materials as you can think of.
3. Take large sheets of paper and mask off areas e.g. small box in a corner/whole sheet
4. Make drawings using pairs of process and material from sheet.
5. Draw further on them if want!
Reflect on how material properties inform a drawing.
I found this useful Tate site on mark marking – http://www.tate.org.uk/art/student-resource/mark-making-exam-help
Here is my list of processes and materials:
I decided for this project to make a reference book of mark making on different environmentally friendly and vegan papers, including blotting paper, Bockingford watercolour paper, Stillman and Birn cartridge paper (internally and externally sized with vegetable products), bamboo paper (advertised as vegan), and Plike (100% environmentally friendly and no animal products).
Reflection on how material properties effect a drawing
Layering adds intrigue and good to use to explore absence, It is something to experiment more with. Examples: elephant with candle wax on top, the very first experiment with tissue paper stuck on, and the blue work just 3 above which has multiple layers of charcoal/graphite/ink.
Juxtapostion adds interest. For example juxtaposition of image, but also juxtaposition of texture, including shiny/matt (as in the enamel on gouache above) and rough/smooth (as in use of textured paste next to smooth surface and oil pastel next to ink). I like shiney things and copper is nice to work on. But liquid graphite also has a nice glint, so does oil paint, enamel, oil pastels if polished, candle wax, and silverpoint. All of these can be juxtaposed with matt mediums such as chalk pastel, charcoal, gouache.
An idea to follow up might be modelling paste used on rocks juxtaposed next to melted candle wax over elephant for larger cave drawing.
Mixed media result in surprising effects. For example coloured pencil used in liquid graphite when wet, or in gouache while still wet (with this one needs to work very quickly). I should remember to use even more mixed mediums in my works – I particularly enjoyed using coloured pencils here, as well as gouache and oil pastels. I always like using ink and perhaps should not always use as my go-to medium.
Collaged elements are very useful for adding interest but in my view need to be used in small doses as part of a drawing, otherwise can get carried away with cutting and pasting. (but can add lovely pattern).
The support is important for a good result. PLIKE is a miracle and I’d like to use it all the time, but seems limited to A3 in the UK. I like its smoothness, whiteness and strength – it stands up to being run under the tap and doesn’t buckle under pressure! Plus it is vegan and environmentally friendly (no trees and no plastic). It can be used for metal point and chalk pastels. Bamboo is great – more textured than PLIKE and also strong. Again I can only find in A3. Copper is great but I think you would only use with either oil paint or enamel (it would be good to try matt enamel with copper, or tin foil to contrast shiney support with matt medium)..
Material properties that I love:marks left when ink is washed off PLIKE paper under the tap; the shine from melted wax that is polished with a finger or ball of tissue; lines made by coloured waterbased pencils drawn into wet gouache or liquid graphite; the reflective surface of enamel paint against a matt background; marks left from drawing into oil paint with a variety of instruments; texture of the combination of ink on top of wax crayon and the combination of stitching (or fabric) used with drawing medium.
Artists engaged in a variety of strategies and agendas – including Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, and Sol LeWitt – readily embraced drawing’s salient attributes – its mobility and elasticity, its economy and antimonumental character, its exploratory nature, and its facility for acting as a mediator, translating abstract concepts into form – to produce works that are notational, diagrammatic, and reductive. Often small in scale, delicate, playful, and highly nuanced, these drawings suggest a level of intimacy and direct encounter with the artists’ thoughts and intentions that is less readily apparent in their work in other mediums. Drawing is approached here as a powerful if under recognized lens through which to explore the productive tensions between rational calculation and subjective expression, concept and material form, and precision and disorder that animate much of the work on view in this exhibition. (Meredith Malone, 2012. Quoted in the OCA EDM handbook)
The Notations exhibition was staged at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St Louis, Missouri in 2012. It was curated by Meredith Malone.The above quote is in the OCA handbook to introduce this contextual study on process through the lens of the Notations exhibition. We are asked to read the essay by Malone that was written to accompany the exhibition. This exercise requires us to respond to the essay and notes to the exhibition found here:
I should start by saying that the web site (link above) is a fantastic resource listing 39 artists whose drawings fall into the minimalist or conceptualist genre. The site gives information about their process (including people like Jasper Johns and John Cage). However, the downside is that I didn’t find the works exciting or inspiring – bar one – and that was Robert Smithson whose drawing I liked and whose intentions for his drawing has my admiration. How sad that he was killed in a plane crash before he could develop his installation further.
The title of the essay to accompany the Notations exhibition is: ‘The Porous Practice of Drawing: System, Seriality, and the Handmade Mark in Minimal and Conceptual Art’, while the title of exhibition itself was: ‘Notations: Contemporary Drawing as Idea and Process’.
Malone describes the exhibition as a presentation of drawings by ‘seminal’ artists (including Sal deWitt, Barry Le Va, Donald Judd. Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse – I am sure all pseudonym’s chosen from a boys’ comic?) and those influenced by them, who engage with ideas associated with minimal, post minimal and conceptual art (p.1). The drawings in the exhibition were sometimes self contained but more often notes on how to make an installation, sculpture or site specific work. Malone suggests that both the ideas conveyed by the drawings, but also the drawings themselves are important. As seen in the quote from Malone, included above, used as an introduction to this contextual study in the OCA handbook, drawing is seen as an intermediary and necessary process between rational/objective working out of an idea, and the emotional/subjective expression of that idea in the production of any work. Drawing seems to be viewed by Malone as the means to solve some dilemmas raised by various dualities eg. rationality v. emotionality. objectivity v. subjectivity. concept v. materiality. precision v. disorder. This seems to me a difficult claim to sustain, but I will hold back my judgement. It is of course congruent with a postmodernist critique – the ‘either’ /’or’ , ‘right’/’wrong’, ‘black’/’white’, ‘male/female’ etc duality that characterises modernity and insists that we must fall into one camp or the other rather than straddle the divide (a view that I am generally sympathetic toward, with some reservations).
The essay starts with discussion of the work of minimalists, such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin. According to Malone Minimalist artists want to ‘free art from symbolic emotional content and pretentious about its transcendent quality’ (p.2). They wanted to make objects that were self-sufficient and self-referential (I understand this as not referring to other themes, metaphors, artistic intentions. They would not, for example, agree with Kandinsky that art should or could have a spiritual role) and to mimic industrial processes, using industrial and readymade materials (e.g. plexiglass, aluminium and steel rather than fine art materials), and methods such as serial repetition. These approaches to making ‘art’ were thought to relegate the artist, the intentions of the artist, and the ‘hand of the artist’ to a backseat. It seems important to point out the context for this work – most of it produced in the 1960s – post second world war when modernist ideas about human progress were being questioned, but at the same time, the modernist economic enterprise involving the beginnings of global capitalism, the technological revolution, expansion, industrialisation, individualism and invention were steaming ahead.
Malone points out, however, that the working drawings of the artists behind their minimalist installations and sculptures, reintroduces the ‘hand of the artist’. The drawings, argues Malone, show us the creative process and are counter to the ‘sterile perfection of the standardised industrial minimalist object.’ Malone draws on the example of Judd who saw his drawings as technical instructions for delegation to the maker and part of his role as supervisor and manager of the project (it is easy to see why he would see his drawings in this way! They are the kind of drawings I would make if working out, e.g. how to make a ceramic water feature in the garden):
I drew a very similar image myself, to help me work out how to make a wardrobe. There are problems of claiming, as Malone does, that a drawing such as the one above, which is essentially instructional, has intrinsic worth as a drawing in an artistic sense. The first is that intentionality has to be considered in deciding the worth of an ‘art’ object. All builders will make sketches such as the one above, perhaps on the back of an envelope, to help them work out how to construct something and what the dimensions will be, so that they know what they need to buy to construct the object and whether it will be the right dimensions for the purpose intended. Judd seems clear that he did not intend for his sketch to be viewed as ‘art’ or to be displayed as such. The second problem is artistic judgement. A working drawing does not follow conventions of drawing relating to line, tone, composition, and nor does it in my view explore the human condition. Because it does not follow these conventions it is essentially ‘unartistic’ and ‘uninteresting’ – even as an aid to understanding Judd’s process of building the object the sketch is related to.
Malone writes about how, for other artists associated with the minimalist approach to art, drawing did not easily match their overall goals. For these artists, like Carl Andre and Richard Serra, drawing did not cross the gap between the conception, or idea behind their sculptures, and the experience of the sculpture once made. They both rejected the idea of the fixed perspective a drawing must necessarily have. Serra rejected prelimary drawings altogether – preferring to work more intuitively with materials and processes. However, drawing remained central to Serra’s practice because he drew his sculptures AFTER they were finished as a means of ‘thinking through problematic aspects of his work as well as his experiences as he encountered his sculptures’ (p.8). For example, ‘Tilted arc’ 1986 below. drawn with black oil crayon. Malone describes this drawing as ‘distilling his physical experience of the piece on site.’ (p.8)
Oh dear. At this point I am feeling seriously irritated. Both with Malone and with Serra. Both of whom seem to me to be taking themselves too seriously, and to be clothing a somewhat meagre and uninspiring endeavour (I am talking about both the drawing and the essay on it at this point) into something more grand by using lots of words. Of course it is not for me to say how the artist ‘distills’ his experience of his own creation on site’ but it does appear that a photograph might have done the job better. It depends of course what the drawing was intended for – as a personal momento it might serve its purpose well for the artist – but it found its way into a public gallery for public consumption – and for me it doesn’t work as a communication about the artists distilled experiences of either the finished sculpture or the site. It communicates nothing about size, perspective, solidity, materiality or relationship to other objects in its vicinity. Malone writes that the drawing serves as ‘mourning’ for the sculpture that was, after a long court case, ordered to be removed and (possibly?) destroyed. Out of curiosity I googled ’tilted arc’ and found the photos that I think make better memorials:
I discovered the arc was commissioned in 1979 by the United States General Services Administration Art in Architecture programme for the open space in front of a planned addition to the Jacob K. Davits Federal Building in Manhattan. It was a 120′ long, 12′ high solid plate of rust-covered COR-TEN steel and many people complained about interruption of the view across the space. Be that as it may – it is the drawing in the notations exhibition that concerns us here – and having seen the photographs, the drawing makes more sense of the construction, but still not of the experience of the piece on site. In fact the drawing is insignificant compared with the photographs which at least explain the controversy over the merits of the ‘minimalist’ construction, AND it IS necessarily from a fixed perspective.
Malone’s continues her essay by explaining that by the late 1960s there was a pervasive emphasis in the arts generally and in sculpture on the minimalist industrial look. Some artists reacted against this and instead explored processes. Process art is concerned literally with how a creation comes into being. In process art how something is made is more important than the end product. Process based art might be ephemeral – for example performance art, or temporary – for example installations or site specific works. The preparation and presentation drawings might be the only record of these works (apart from video or photographs which seems a perfectly good record to me). Malone uses the example of Barry La Va who explored the properties of everyday materials such as felt, chalk, flour etc and how they reacted to one another in his installations. La Va used diagrams to visualise his thoughts and decide, which ideas were worth pursuing. Malone points out, interestingly, that La Va’s drawings (diagrams) belie the idea of spontaneity and flexibility in drawing – instead they are ordered and precise, leaving spontaneity to the actual installations. Like other artists at the time, La Va used graph paper. He cut up the graph paper and glued it onto white paper to map out the distribution of the felt and glass to be used in the installation. He used red, black and grey ink to connect the fragments and represent specific minerals e.g. iron oxide:
While of all the works here, I am most interested in La Va’s work above, I am not convinced that it is an example of a process drawing – it seems more in line with the Judd diagram discussed above, since it is specifically to help the artist think through how to make an installation. A clearer example of a process drawing to me, is the example given by Malone of William Anastasi’s subway drawings. These were made my Anastasia sitting on a train with eyes closed, holding a pencil in each hand with their points resting on a sheet of paper on a board on his lap, headphones on to block out noise, and allowing the movement of the train to direct the pencil lines. In this way the a drawing is produced as a bodily performance – swaying to the movement of the train – however the artist’s mind came up with this idea and it strikes me that intentionality is still very much to the fore . This attempt to create ‘chance’ drawings is obviously related to other ‘chance’ work in the arts (dance and music) at the time, for example John Cage, the musician or the choreographer, Merce Cunningham, who used a dice thrown on stage to dictate the next movement in his danced works. These artists are less concerned with the artists vision, and more concerned with the phenomenon of the actual experience, of both artist and viewer. Their intention was to challenge what is perceived as ‘art’ by forcing the viewer into an unfamiliar ‘artistic’ experience in which their perceptions are altered. Malone suggests that Anastasi’s drawings reveal the temporaral experience of the artists as he travelled across New York. She suggests the drawings proffer ‘a significant reopening to the bodily subject.’ Here is one such drawing – untitled, subway, 1973.
The most interesting thing to me is that ‘untitled subway drawing 1973’, is almost indistinguishable from ‘untitled subway drawing 2009’ (thirty six years later). My guess is that untitled subway drawings in-between are also pretty much the same. This raises the question of whether the artists experiences of travelling on the subway remained static and unchanging. Surely it also challenges Malone’s idea that the drawings represent a significant reopening of the bodily subject. In 36 years I guess that the bodily subject has significantly altered, and if we are interested in the body as subject then the bodily performance of mark-making should map these changes as well as changes in experience on the train during all this time? Is there any point to ‘blindly’ repeating a process if that process does not indicate anything of temporality itself? (and isn’t this an example of irrationality producing the same outcome? – see point made by Sol LeWitt below).
I think it is important to emphasise again, however, that of the drawings discussed so far, to me Anastasi’s are most nearly what I think could be described as ‘process drawings’ – they are not notes on how to make something else, but are completed works in themselves.
Malone moves on to discuss conceptual art, and LeWitt’s rejection of the bodily performance of art, for the claim that art is ideas based “If the artist carries through his idea and makes it into visible form, then all the steps in the process are of importance. The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any other aesthetic product. All intervening steps—scribbles, sketches, drawings, failed works, models, studies, thoughts, conversations—are of interest.” (Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in Open Systems: Rethinking Art, c. 1970, ed. Donna DeSalvo (London: Tate Modern, 2005), 180).
In “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969) LeWitt distinguishes between the logical approach of scientific or industrial production and that of aesthetic experience:
1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2. Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.
3. Irrational judgments lead to new experience.
4. Formal art is essentially rational.
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
To me this is interesting but surprising. Surprising because conceptual art is surely essentially to do with ideas – this is what LeWitt says in the first quote. In fact he is prioritising ideas over material works and identifying an idea as ‘art’ not only a product. Yet above he distinguishes between ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ thoughts (I take a thought and an idea to be the same thing) and argues for the prioritising of the irrational idea in art because he thinks this will lead to something new, whereas rational thoughts will lead only to producing the same thing over and over (like Anastasi on the train?). I think there is some confusion here. Terms need defining. What does he mean by rational and irrational? He seems to define the first as an idea that is ‘logical’. Logic really only applies to causation. There is no ‘logical’ argument for why ‘irrational’ (because illogical) judgments should lead to new experience. For example, I could think that it’s fine to paint my naked daughter in a sexualised position because my painting will be ‘artistic’ (illogical because all evidence suggests that sexualising one’s daughter damages her) – so this is an irrational judgement but it does not lead to the ‘new experience’ of not painting her – I go ahead and paint her anyway, and then paint her sisters in equally sexualised positions.
To me this seems like a manifesto for doing something new for the hell of it, because you can, and then you can rationale it as ‘artistic’. With regard to the premis that not only products but ideas are art I also have a problem (I would prefer not to have problems because I have lots of ideas and on ideas alone I might be defined as an artist). Suppose we decided that Beethoven was a great musician because he wrote down that he had an idea for a fantastic piano concerto in C major, that passed through Bflat minor in the opening 4 bars and moved onto E minor by the end of the sixth bar, bringing in oboe, flute and clarinet to harmonise with the melodic top notes of the piano (I am making this up and it doesn’t make sense). Perhaps he even writes down the opening bar in musical notation. THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! The arts surely must essentially engage the senses and create an emotional response relating to the human condition. An intellectual response in the arts is not ‘art’ and can be left to academic scholarship.
To be fair Malone picks up what LeWitt might mean by irrational and defines it as actions beyond the boundaries of human control. But I don’t think that is what LeWitt is saying in the quotes Malone herself chose to use. He does not write about actions but about thoughts. Malone links rationality and irrationality to order and disorder. She draws on the work of Eva Hesse to exemplify how artists might explore this dichotomy.
In this untitled drawing, 1967, Hesse draws a circle over and over on graph paper. Hesse wrote ‘serial, serial, serial art is another way of repeating absurdity.’ (Eva Hesse, quoted in Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: De Capo, 1976), 96.). Malone writes that Hesse is considered post minimalist as she engaged the body in a psychic way rather than only as a neutral or passive ‘object’ (isn’t this another way of saying that she engaged cognitively in what she was doing i.e. she thinks about the drawing and draws with intention? As the mainstream of artists do). The circles are uneven and diverse, because drawn by hand, rather than, say, a machine, and Malone suggests this is evidence of opposition to the ‘strict reductivism’ of LeWitt – her conceptual contemporary. I take reductivism to mean a focus on the most basic element of a structure, a reduction in colour, simplification of composition, breaking up the whole into its parts and preoccupation with one dimension or aspect. To me, Hesse’s drawing above is not evidence of an opposition to strict reductivism, but is very much an example of it.
Malone concludes by suggesting that these artists represent a moment in art between modernist and postmodernist and all were attempting to rethink ‘art’. Artists associated with minimal, post minimal and conceptual art wanted to move away from the emotive abstract expressionists and freedom to experiment with form and materials. Malone suggests that in the decades since this movement artists are no longer concerned or interested in ‘modernist endgames’. The modernist endeavour was (is) based on notions of progress and essentialism – which I take to mean there is a particular way of drawing or painting that is judged ‘right’ in all contexts and historical times. Nor, Malone argues, are artists today constrained by the postmodern critique of modernism, which Malone characterises as a negative movement (I disagree with the notion that it is negative, rather it questions dualist certainties). Instead she suggests that artists today can freely engage ‘with the creative process to arrive at new forms and ideas.’ I am glad if this is the case. Malone lists a number of artists e.g. O’Bryan (40,000 Breaths), Dash (embedded bodily processes in Commuter, 2011), Cohen (representation of pitches at baseball games in San Francisco at New York , 2004) who draw on practices such as serial repetition, marks made from bodily movement, mechanical interventions.
I have noticed a new freedom to produce art in a variety of ways such as realist, non realist, abstract, conceptual, performative and so on and if this is the new creed I am delighted. However I cannot help retaining a little skepticism about whether this is in fact true. It seems more likely that we are in a short void until the new ‘right way’ comes along, and then all others ways of doing ‘art’ will be considered ‘wrong’ by those with power i.e. art dealers, art critics,art galleries, art academics and art colleges (probably in that order). Malone points out that drawing has always served as a way of making sense of the world around us. I guess the key question for me is..What are the crucial events in the world around us that we need to make sense of? Can we make sense of them by, for example, recording our breathing, or by recording pitches at a baseball match or by folding paper and dusting charcoal powder onto it? Or are these distractions? We are in a world at crisis point. How can drawing that focuses on processes help us make sense of this fact? Can any drawing of any kind help us make sense of this fact?
Reflection: what might I take from this for my own practice?
I am most struck having written this, by the phrase from Hesse that serial art is a way of repeating absurdity and I will mull this over. Perhaps not just repeating absurdity but pointing out absurdity? Pointing out absurdity is a useful way of engaging with aspects of the world that make no sense whatsoever.
Annette Robinson is a sculptor and animator who uses drawing and printmaking as key elements in her practice. She records her delight at finding that motherhood has given her access to all kinds of new objects (toys) that she can make work with. Click on the link below to see how she has developed a process of drawing which uses the audience themselves as a drawing tool: http://www.annetterobinson.co.uk/work/interactive-stamp-drawings/transformer/index.php?gro=work&sub=interactive&id=transformer
The work used audience participation to build a stamped drawing on both the walls and freestanding forms throughout the length of the show, which lasted for 5 months. The images on the stamps are based on the ‘Sticklebrick’, a child’s toy that can appear both cellular and architectural and has inherent in its structure the possibility of multiples. It is thus made to be in a state of flux through imagination and a vast permutation of construction possibilities. The stamps are seen both as drawing tools and as sculptural objects and as such work either through interaction or as still objects that have the potential of activity within them. The show included laser prints, 27 stamps and an Inkpad.(web site – address above).
The above are drawings made by Annette Robinson of the sticklebrick toy, but the 5 months exhibition in Sweden called ‘Transformer’ involved Robinson in making a ‘stamp’ (like the old fashioned wooded stamps made for textiles, that I sometimes use to stamp clay) based on the sickle brick toy, that participants could use to print their own image to the wall.
Sue Gilmore is an OCA graduate. In 2016 she was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. She had submitted one of her charcoal pieces. The reason, I guess, for her being chosen as one of our contextual studies is because HOW she makes her drawings is part and parcel of the outcome – i.e. it is during the process of making them that the drawings ‘appear’ simultaneously. Each drawing is produced through the process of making in a somewhat arbitrary and chance way, rather than pre-planned and carefully executed to meet a pre-specified artist’s vision. Sue Gilmore grows willows and burns it in a tin to make charcoal dust. Her blog site is: https://sue-gilmore.com/work/trace-drawings/
The process I adopted for making charcoal involved packing the willow sticks or form that I had made in sand in a tin, so after the burn, the tin contains the charcoal, sand and a residue that I have called charcoal dust – this is emptied onto the paper. So there is a combination of marks made from the residue as it settles, and then the sand marks into this as it is emptied from the paper. (Sue Gilmore in conversation with the Emma Dye, author of Exploring Drawing Media, 2016).
Below are two images from the Salix series – on the left Salix alba and on the right Salix Purpurea.
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that Sue Gilmore is making willow charcoal to draw willow! Salix is the name for willow: ‘Willows, also called sallows, and osiers, form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere’ (wikipedia). The resultant drawings have an ephemerality that I find appealing and I appreciate the coherence involved in Gilmore’s way of working – charcoal powder is itself fairly ephemeral and fragile and difficult to ‘fix’ without some kind of protective spray, or putting behind glass. I guess my worry about process is that, while I think it is important for process and theme/outcome to ‘match’, the process could become more important than the outcome and one could spend one’s life repetitively repeating a process (like the artist who seems to have travelled for 36 years on a train doing autonomous drawings with his eyes closed, that was mentioned in the ‘Notations’ essay reviewed on this site). Repeating processes becomes comforting and gives us an appearance of stability, but doesn’t really challenge us or take us further (like cleaning our teeth every day). Getting involved in the process (as I found in assignment 3) is fun and exciting – however, while it is fun and exciting for the artist, it is less fun and exciting for the viewer, who neither ‘sees’ the process, nor experiences it, but instead sees and experiences the outcome. This is one of my concerns about too much focus on process. Another concern is that an interest in ‘making’ involes asking ‘How’ questions about material – e.g How is it made? How should I use this material? These are important questions, but I would argue, not as important as ‘Why’ questions e..g Why is it important to make this at this particular time? (I have followed up these thoughts by writing a brief essay on ‘process’ in art – see research menu.
Jonathan Owens has developed a drawing process that only uses a rubber. He draws onto photographs by removing the ink they have been printed with. He draws in reverse by removing layers of tone to specific degrees, making black by not rubbing out at all and white by rubbing all the ink off. He uses this process to ‘remove’ figures from drawings and replace them with his own idea of what might have been behind them. Fragments of the figures remain where they weren’t in synch with his intentions (e.g. a white blouse where he wanted black). The effect is quite impressive when you stand in a room facing these drawings. Owens’ mastery of the process, the intricacy, and the time it has all clearly taken, imbue the drawings with power. (EDM handbook)
In both his “Eraser Drawings” and his sculptural works, British artist, Johathan Owens uses subtractive methods of art-making through which redefines the object of his drawing. He is described as ‘a master of tools of destruction’ and as ‘attacking cultural history, deconstructing and removing the elements that give them their objecthood and replacing them with alien forms that demand the viewer’s reconsideration’ (https://www.artsy.net/article/editorial-jonathan-owens-defaced-photos-and-sculptures-are).
Owens’ “Eraser Drawings” could perhaps be achieved using a software programme such as Photoshop, but they are done by hand using an eraser to remove ink from black-and-white photos found in books. He slowly removes parts of the image to leave ghostly traces. To date, he has created two series in this vein: one of public statues and another of Hollywood film stars on set; in both, the subjects are almost absent in the final works.
In his sculptures, Owens’ found objects are once again reworked to build surprising new forms. Traditional marble busts have their insides removed and are partially carved into intricate, abstract shapes that both deconstruct and emphasise their original form. The works are recognisable as figures, but have been carved out so that the body becomes detached from itself. According the artsy.net above, this emphasises its materiality. For example, in David (2013), a figure’s head has been detached like a chain link and rests on the sculpture’s shoulder, creating an effect that is surreal and also romantic.
By removing parts of the original, Owens directs our eye to the negative space as we try to decipher the original image (called the “ur-image” in writing about traditional palimpsestic forms). Artsy.net suggest that the missing pieces makes it impossible to fully know this original image and so we are forced to settle into a state of unknowing. I don’t quite agree with this – I think we can pretty much see the original in the images below, or perhaps we are given enough information to reconstruct it?Owens is one of many contemporary artists who have examined the function of additive erasure, including Idris Khan, Jeremy Millar, or even Michel Gondry, but his works are more focused on the final image or sculpture than on the process. Defacing is often used as an act of protest, but by Owens it is utilized as a means to an end, in which the final object is a work of complex beauty. I wonder how Owens chooses the images to deconstruct and whether their choice has specific meaning for him? For example, the statue below is clearly of a soldier on horseback – therefore something to do with war. The female image doesn’t seem to be in any specific context – but she could be fleeing?
above. two partly erased book pages.
above. Two pages that have been cut and burned
Above .2 book pages woven together.
2 marble sculptures that have been deconstructed/recarved.
I like this process as a way of exploring absence and had a brief go at erasing parts of photographs in exercise 3.4 of this course. It is in fact not at all difficult to erase part of a photograph. The artistic decision relates to which part of the image to leave and what to replace the removed image with. In the two photographs above Owens has largely replaced the statue images with trees. I think that the clever part of this work is leaving exactly enough image for the viewer to discern the trace of the former photograph. The erasure leaves interesting questions in the mind of the beholder: who was this? what were they doing? why have they disappeared? – questions that might not be asked if the image were totally clear. The erasure makes the image more mysterious and therefore more interesting – attention is fixed more intently. Erasing part of an image clearly offers potential for exploring both absence/emphemarily and what endures – and is therefore something for me to examine in more detail, including the work of the three artists mentioned above.
Grayson Perry is a generous artist. His Reith Lectures are a nurturing and empathic call to all artists and would-be artists to nurture their imagination and sensitivity. He shares his process and his thoughts freely and is particularly open about how the dissemination of his work is related to its production. His published sketchbooks and the monograph he produced for his The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition are similar in that they are both full of inside information. (EDM handbook)
Take some time to find out more about how Grayson Perry uses drawing as a tool for thinking.
I adore Grayson Perry. Here he is dressed to kill:
My main reason for adoring him, although I don’t know him and am only going on what I have read/seen about him – is because he challenges accepted beliefs about masculinity. I read, in fact, that he is involved in making a film about what it means to be a man. It SEEMS to me that Grayson Perry is clear and solid in his masculinity – dressing up in colourful outfits is one aspect of his masculinity. He does not call himself a woman. Nor does he parade himself in objectifying outfits that further belittle and exploit women’s sexuality. Because of this he challenges accepted notions of both masculinity and femininity and ‘performs’ an anti sexist agenda, rather than colluding in it (as cross dressing can do if it does not challenge the objectification of women). Perry does not wear sexualised outfits – instead he plays with colour, fabric, style and, it seems to me, has fun.
Fun is central to his constructions, and I love this too. His subjects include sexuality, gender, class and he approaches these subjects with a gentle mockery, but always with a hard edged mirror that he holds up to our insincerities and problems that we would actually prefer to ignore. Take for example his speech last year to a Creative Industries Federation event at Central Saint Martins (Perry is Chancellor of the University of the Arts, of which St. Martin’s is part and I believe the OCA is affiliated?) He address the then recent Brexit and Trump votes. Instead of condemning the millions of people who voted for both, Perry points out that the left wing (and most artists are on the political left) should use this as an opportunity to question themselves. Why is their art so excusive? why have so many people voted for Brexit and Trump, and how can we understand their choices, rather than call them stupid or ignorant? He argued for right wing artists to be encouraged into the centre-left wing art world to challenge ideas. (https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/grayson-perry-trump-and-brexit-are-fantastic-for-the-arts-a3404636.html)
This may seem to take me away from the point of this contextual study which is to consider how Perry uses drawing as a tool for thinking, but in fact it is central. Perry is concerned with contemporary social and political issues and he addresses these through his art. He uses drawing to capture his ideas. (www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/sep/19/grayson-perry-on-drawing)
And he develops these ideas in his ceramics, tapestries, prints as well as in his Performance art. Perry, like say Jasper Johns or Rauchenberg or Marcel Duchamp (widely considered the father of all conceptual artists – see my posts about all three under gallery visits) does not feel constrained to work only in one art medium. He has said that ceramics has never been his only artistic medium – he has also for example enjoyed writing/illustrating comic strips. In fact the influence of the comic strip seems evident in quite a lot of his work – particularly in the fact that much of it is narrative driven: a kind of artistic soap opera. However, what draws all his different artistic works together are the themes he continues to explore and the use he makes of art for social commentary. I would like to add too, that what also draws his different endeavours together is the level of skill he brings to each different discipline. see, for example, the ceramics, tapestries and etchings below. I have commented before that Perry is not original in his choice of a feminine alter ego to challenge conventional stereotypes (Duchamp comes to mind), and nor is he original in his challenge to the separation of ‘art’ and ‘craft’ (ceramics is often considered to be a craft rather than ‘art’ as is textiles) – Perry won the turner art prize for his ceramics – nor is he original in his use of art to challenge society and inequality (Dada comes to mind). As chancellor of the University of the Arts Perry is an establishment figure – perhaps his originality lies in the fact that he still gently challenges establishment ideas from within through his speeches (this is often only possible from without) and also in the fact that his constructions are unusual in being so explicitly challenging to this very establishment he heads up. The images below show the intricate detail and wonderful use of colour and pattern in his tapestries. Perhaps the most important thing that appeals to me about his work is that although he is a critical commentator, he is interested in beauty. His works are objects of great beauty, which is not (for me) the case with the other artists mentioned above. Perhaps , too , the narrative drive of much of his work is an aspect of his appeal. (These works, one feels, are about the lives of the common people and remind me of the paintings of John Bratby, who I admire greatly, as well as Beryl Bainbridge). I include the map etchings below, because I am interested in maps in assignment 3, and to show his versatility. Perry’s version of the ‘Mappa Mundi’ (any european medieval map of the world) entitled ‘Map of nowhere is currently exhibited right opposite the Mappa Mundi in Hereford cathedral and in an article I read, described as questioning the existence of God. There is a second etching entitled ‘map of days’ below too, entitled ‘map of days’. In an interview about this second map Perry says that it is a musing on the nature of self and identity (https://www.artfund.org/news/2014/10/31/grayson-perry-interview-map-of-days)
the original version is shown below:
I love it, too, that his ceramics are such a contrast to the minimalist pots that have been fashionable in studio pottery for so long. I make pots and this is exactly a pot I would have liked to have made myself – or own!
I will end by returning to Perry’s use of drawing for thinking. It is evident that his quick sketches act as a memory tool (he likens them to a USB drive). He records his thoughts visually rather than through words. I guess that this is what we are being asked to do in some of the exercises for Part Four of EDM. Drawing for thinking, in Perry’s example above, is above all, quick. It does not concern itself with weight of line or tone. It is an aide memoire. It is not a ‘finished’ art work and it may or may not feed into a finished work. It is not a product to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and the criterion we apply to decide on the worth of a drawing would not be applied here. It is personal – it belongs to the drawer. It is a process to help think constructively and creatively and critically. It is not to put on view. One cannot get it ‘right’ and it should not be ‘marked’ – therefore it is freeing and should be fun.
Currently Perry’s work can be seen in at least four locations (probably many more)- in Bristol, Shipley, Hereford cathedral and Paris and I shall certainly visit at least one of them (Shipley is en route for settle, north yorkshire!). Grayson Perry is, to me, an inspirational artist.
This has been an exciting and varied part of EDM. We have taken a broad approach to the idea of ‘drawing in space’: from thinking about constructing a drawing in three dimensional space, to effecting the way a space is experienced, to installing a drawing in a specific space, and each of these exercises has required different ways of thinking/making.
I reflect on each exercise below in relation to course criteria:
Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
Quality of outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner with discernment.
Demonstration of creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice. Context: Reflection, research (learning logs).
3.1 and 3.2. Making a construction in 3D and then drawing it .
This was a fun exercise and I like the finished drawing, but I am not sure at this point whether it will be a way of working that I will explore further. I understand after writing an essay on ‘Space’ (see https://wp.me/P8R3Yj-tZ) that this exercise relates to explorations of how ‘reality’ is perceived and portrayed. It encourages us to look at planes and tonal relationships, and explore ways of depicting a 3D object on a 2D surface so that ideas about perspective are challenged. It is also more pragmatically, to push the way we draw so that the final outcome is very different from the initial sketch that the 3d construction is built on. I think, unless one starts by understanding how traditional perspective may be problematic, and wanting to study alternatives, it can feel a rather technical exercise. An emotional, rather than intellectual or playful, connection with the subject is difficult to find (I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with either intellectual or playful intentions).
In respect to outcomes, I think that my colour choices were good, and so is the composition. I think it could probably have been pushed further so that the final drawing was more abstracted, and I think this was probably the desired outcome. I could have experimented more with drawing the 3D construction from different angles.
3.3. Affecting the way a space is experienced.
I decided this should be a collaborative project and I think this was an excellent way forward – if one person can impact on how a space is experienced, then arguably a group of people can impact more powerfully on that space.
I was careful to invite all my peers to contribute and to follow ethical guidelines relating to transparency, information, clear lines of communication and valuing all contributions. I wrote to thank everyone individually and I put all individual contributions up on Facebook as they arrived. I think this is an important part of a collaborative art project. The work involved in this project was considerable – sharing information with peers, photographing all work, putting up on Facebook and blog, laminating all work, contacting and keeping Settle campaigners in the loop, installing the final project, uploading photographs of the final ‘installation’. Perhaps I don’t do well on demonstration of technical and visual skills on this exercise – since I am not the only or main artist, but in terms of quality of outcome, I think it is a good example of how art can be used to draw attention to community issues, and can bring people together to express their voice in a powerful way. I also think it shows creativity and personal voice. My main learning from this project is that taking art into the community demands good organisation and lots of time, but it also requires clear communication, careful consideration of people’s work, commitment and ownership. All of these raise ethical considerations. A key positive is that it brings the artist, who usually works alone, into contact with other people, and is a good vehicle for action and change.
A reflection on this exercise must involve the question of whether it was ‘a line in space’. My argument is that it most definitely is if the definition of a line as ‘a mark between two points that can take any form along the way’ is accepted. As a whole installation – the drawings hang in a 3 dimensional space and a line is made by the ribbon with drawings hanging from it. But also each individual work in the installation is made of lines on a 2D space.
I think that it terms of outcomes and impact this exercise has been very successful indeed. I heard today that the campaigners have sent a write-up and photographs to the local newspaper – so it is conceivable that its impact on people could extent beyond those who use the actual space (the tree is adjacent to a well used footpath), by impacting people who read about it too.
Today too – three days after putting up the installation – I had an email from someone in Settle to say she thinks the installation is causing some interest: she has seen a number of people photographing it. She has kindly sent photographs of it, taken by her partner, to approx 1200 contacts on Settle Facebook groups.
This has been my favourite exercise. I love the fact that a drawing for a specific room must involve research into the context, history, social usage, personal experience, geography, geology (in this case). Without this research it seems doubtful that the final drawing will be sufficiently contextualised. I did a lot of research for this exercise and there is a lot of writing on my blog (perhaps too much, but I see the blog as a record for myself). This exercise has involved a lot of experimentation and innovation – choosing a cave in the first place feels innovative and certainly involved some degree of courage since it is a fairly arduous uphill walk, and isolated. Going some way into the cave also involved overcoming trepidation. I feel the work shows a strong personal voice since this is a personal response to issues that concern me regarding the environment and extinction. A cave is an interesting metaphor and has been used by many from Plato to Jung. There is a lot of room for invention and further development here and I have ideas for where to take this project next. The drawings themselves follow a process from more realist outside the cave (although there is an element of non realism even in the most realist), to more abstract within the cave, and this could be pushed further (the contrast I mean). Also the drawing media and support are central to this project. If I leave a drawing in the cave ( it is important that the materials are environmentally and animal friendly. It’s interesting to reflect on what placing the drawing in the cave environment adds to them. For me, certainly in this final drawing above, the walls of the cave echo the mark making in the drawing, particularly the white line running down the cave wall, which by complete chance, joins the white line running down the sketch. I see these drawings as ‘for’ the cave, and I hope the cave likes them. Putting the drawings in the cave feels like an act of reverence, and this is important since experts on the caves believe they may have been used as ‘shrines’ and a connection to the spiritual realm by the Romans. However, I did not leave these drawings in the cave – primarily because they are not entirely environmentally friendly.
I have learned that when installing a drawing for a specific space the following are important:
b the drawing is ‘for’ the space and needs to be contextualised
c. questions of timing (in this case time of day but also time of year e.g. the weather and amount of water in the cave will impact heavily on how long a drawing can remain intact)
d. talking to people with expertise relating to the space, or who use the space
e. consideration of not only the subject matter, but how the drawing media and support may be appropriate for the space
As a final word I would like to draw attention to an essay I wrote for this part of the course on ‘space’, which can be found here:
The exploration of space in art seems to raise questions about reality, perception, perspective, and how many dimensions we inhabit, and whether these different dimensions, including the fourth dimension – time, can be represented in the two dimensional space of a drawing or painting, or in the three dimensional work of a sculpture, or only (if at all) in time based media – video for example.
Reflection on the assignment for part three can be found at the end of the assignment: https://wp.me/P8R3Yj-o
Most galleries that you will be familiar with will fall into one or both of two categories: large cathedral-like institutions with big doorways and lots of pillars and staircases, or white cubes where the rooms have been stripped of architectural intrusions to allow you to contemplate the work inside without distraction. These days, we are much more alive to how and where art is situated. This means that we often see art outside the gallery, installed in unusual or site-specific places. We also see artists using the space inside galleries and elsewhere as part of their art work. Start your work on this exercise by researching site-specific and installation art. (Course handbook)
1. Find a room or space and make notes about what draws you to it.
2. Use your sketchbook to think about and draw the room and your relationship to it. Don’t make finished drawings or do lots of writing – just think and draw.
3. Make a drawing which you can site in the room in response to some of your thoughts about it.
4. Reflect on how your own drawing relates to the research you did. What aspects of the room did you find yourself responding to? Was it the space itself, or the story of its usage?
I decided to focus on a cave behind Settle, where I went to school (I don’t mean to say that I went to school in the cave). I now have a cottage under the hill. Settle is in North Yorkshire and four miles from Norber, where I did previous work for part one of this module, and my final assignment for Drawing 1. Settle lies on the mid craven fault line which extends from Thorpe in the East to Lancliffe. Norber is on the Northern (longer) fault line, and the northern fault line runs parallel approximately 1 mile to the North of the mid-fault. The south Craven fault runs 1 mile further south of settle. The Feizor fault line is also about 2 miles to the west; which must make Settle the epicentre of huge disruptive forces!
The cave is one of many in this limestone area, some of which are famous for their stalactites and stalagmites (tights come down as my geography teacher helpfully explained). This particular cave is called ‘Victoria’ cave and the inner chamber was discovered in the year of Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837. The cave is a site of special scientific interest and a scheduled monument. It was fully excavated in the Victorian era and several prehistoric remains were found (the earliest is 130,000 years old), including mammoth, straight-tusked elephant, bear, hippopotomus, rhinoceros, spotted hyenas. They date to the Upper Pleistocene interglacial period. After the last ice age the cave was used by hibernating brown bear and reindeer. A harpoon head carved from antler, and dating back 8270 BC gives evidence of homo sapiens living in this area at that time. Flint implements (flint is not found naturally in this area), and other ornaments were also found, leading to speculation that the cave was used as a shrine at some stage. I understood at the start that the Craven Museum and Gallery in Skipton was home to some of the findings and I intended doing some of my research there for this exercise. On further research, however, I found that the artefacts are with Tom Lord, a local historian and archeologist, whose grandfather and father were central to the cave explorations in the area, and who is himself committed to recording and sharing this amazing history.
My plan is to make a drawing/s in response to the Cave, its geology and history. For me the cave is a metaphor for the extinction of threatened animals in other parts of the world today, including the elephant. Also because the land around upper settle is so little changed it still seems to hold memories of times before human activity despoiled much of the planet.
Currently I am thinking of possibly drawing the valley from the mouth of the cave and incorporating some of these lost animals. I am wondering too if I can learn from Jonathan Owen’s work on absence in his ‘rubbed out’ drawings. I will attempt to place the drawing inside the cave and photograph it in situ. If possible, I will leave it there – since the cave may have been a shrine at some point it seems pertinent to leave my drawing as an offering. I feel confident that the drawing will not harm the cave and will try to ensure I use organic materials, possibly rice or bamboo paper and possibly local stone found in the area as one of the mark making medium.
The current opening to the cave is completely man made. The original opening is to the left and covered in brambles/stones when Michael Horner’s dog dashed in after a rabbit in 1837. When his dog didn’t reappear Horner scrambled in after him. You can see from the diagram below that the cave goes under the scar about 90 feet. But the hills around here are a warren of limestone passages. Under nearby Ingleborough for example, you can go inside Clapham Cave or Whitescar cave for half a mile.
I am not a caver and will not be able to go very far into the cave,and so my drawing will need to be left near the entrance, unfortunately, but here are some stunning photographes of further into Victoria cave, taken by someone who is a potholer: Stephen Oldfield. See http://oldfieldslimestone.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/easter-sunday-at-victoria-cave-recent.html
I mentioned in my previous blog (exercise 3.3) my abortive attempt to visit the postcard ‘line in space’ exhibition at Leeds university art and design college, while on a trip to North Yorkshire for the weekend on feb 24th. While on the train, and before I googled ‘a line in space’ for inspiration I was thinking that I would like to install my drawing for exercise 3.4 on Norber. But I was also thinking that I would like my drawing to have some shelter -t his is how the idea of the cave came about.
As well as the postcard exhibition coming to light when I googled ‘a line in space’, I was also pretty amazed to see that the last day of Philippa Dobson’s exhibition – part of her PH.D thesis at Leeds art college – was open for its final day on the 25th Feb at Ilkley Manor House. My work for drawing1 , assignment 5 focused on the rocks, trees and other erratics on Norber, North Yorkshire. So I was excited to see that Phillipa’s Ph.D work also focused on one prehistoric giant rock called Badger stone on Ilkley Moor. Ilkley is not very far from Settle. Many of us know Ilkley moor from Wuthering Heights – Haworth is on the edge of Ilkley moor. My mother was also born on a farm on the edges of Ilkley Moor. So the following day I visited the Manor, and was able to talk to Phillipa there.
The ‘Badger Stone’ monument includes a reddish gritstone rock c.3.7m x 2.6m x 1.2m on flat land at Grainings Head. The carving consists of a large number of cups, rings, and grooves in the cup and ring tradition. In addition there is a more angular design on the east side of the southwest face, which may be later, though still prehistoric. English Heritage support the view that the marks were religious symbols and may have functioned as cosmogenic maps for the nomadic peoples who made them, perhaps having the same function as the aboriginal drawings in Australia.
According to information on Phillipa’s web site, ‘This exhibition outlines how walking and mapmaking relate to land issues and ‘colonialism’ and argues how mark making in situ within the landscape and within Leeds College of Art extends a prehistoric practice of gestural image making.’
For the purposes of the artist’s practice-based research Philippa Dobson defines ‘heritage control’ as the methods employed by the heritage industry for land management and access to scheduled monuments. Walking, casting, printmaking, artists’ books and time-based performance are all elements of Phillipa’s performative ‘mapping’ practice. Philippa argues that performance within the landscape and within the College of Art extends the gestural performance of the original Neolithic mark-makers into a contemporary ritual space. Drawing from anthropologist Tim Ingold and post-colonialist Homi Bhabha, hers is a mapping practice that navigates the ‘in-between’ or ‘hybrid’ space between ‘official’ or ‘colonizing’ maps and ‘conceptual’ or ‘artefactual’ maps. When the artist’s work is performed these artefacts become what she terms ‘performance maps’. Developing a conceptual model of ‘bodily mapping’ Filippa Dobson claims to make a ‘gendered response to contemporary landownership and inherent issues of power and control’.
The aim of starting with the interpretation of marks on the Badger stone as a map, and then making her own contemporary ‘bodily mapping’ of the moor, as a gendered response to the colonisation of the land is, in my view, brilliant. Three main ‘performances’ were enacted on the moor (in addition to the ‘performance’ of walking on it’.
A response in print. In the foreground of the photo is a long sheet of japanese organic washi paper, printed with ‘rock-like’ biodegradable ink and taken up to the moor, where it was whipped by the wind into various shapes, and where some of the ink came off to leave marks in the snow (this was not planned or expected). The printed paper was removed and taken away afterwards.
2) A response to the quartz and other minerals in the rock itself. Light was flooded over the rock in different colours e.g. pink and the rocks photographed at night – one image shows the shadow of the artists overlaying the rock.
3) A slightly more permanent response in the landscape. With the permission of the land owners, a tractor and mower were hired and large concentric circles mowed into the heather – perhaps covering 100 yards or so. These look like the well known crop circles:
In addition Phillippa produced two booklets – the first chronicling her early work on the moor, the second, detailing in the form of a narrative story what the work is ‘really’ about, which turn out NOT to be about a gendered mapping of the moor to oppose colonial mapping, but the story of a girl (her mother), and a hare, found dead near the rock (the hare found dead, not the mother).
This last highlights my problem with the thesis, and the art produced for it. Were I Philippa’s examiner (and the examiners visited the exhibition and I understand, held the viva in the Manor), I would be concerned about the focus and the extent to which the outcomes reflect the stated intentions. The work seems to stem from interest in how nomadic prehistoric people navigated the land and left their mark upon it. From there it seems to have a concern with how colonial mapping of land has restricted its use and imposed specific and particular ways of perceiving it. From there Philippa seems to intend to impose her own gendered mapping on the same land. Maps presumably have several uses –
A.They help us get from a to b.
B.They help us know what to look out for on the way.
C. they impose boundaries.
D. They impose identity and ownership .
While I think Philippa’s work is tremendously interesting I did NOT feel that a gendered non-colonial mapping was achieved. The third ‘performance’ (cutting the heather) most obviously left a mark on the land, but I do not think this was a feminine mark (I assume this is what Philippa means by gendered). On the contrary, to me the act of cutting seems to me to leave quite a brutal and masculine ‘colonial’ mark. I know from being a farmer’s daughter, for example, that many small animals get caught in the mower blade. Additionally I would suggest that rather than being related to colonial practices of mapping, mowing is a functional practice to produce fodder on land that has already been ‘mapped’ in other ways.
The prints (in the first photo above, and the first ‘performance’) leave marks in the snow but they seem arbitrary – they do not seem to challenge ideas about boundaries, identity or ownership. They do not seems to challenge ideas about patriarchy or colonialism. The same is, I think, true to some extent of the projected image, although of the three ‘performances’ I would argue this is the most nearly a gendered response.
If I were the supervisor or examiner I would want Philippa to think about how her mark making in the land could more genuinely question colonial map making and suggest a ‘feminine’ alternative. It seemed that finding the dead hare by the rock was the end of Philippa’s quest. Perhaps it should be the beginning. In the druid animal oracles, the hare signifies Rebirth, Intuition, and Balance. These seem like typical ‘feminine’ qualities and perhaps might be the inspiration for the next remapping/remaking a world that has been mapped/made on greed, accumulation and consumption in the colonial era. The moor is a harsh environment – perhaps soft, delicate, easily destroyed materials (nevertheless left behind on the moor) are called for as a counter to that huge enduring grit rock.
NB. Ilkley Manor was a great place to mount the exhibition – it dates back to Anglo Saxon Britain and is the oldest building in the vicinity. It is a museum and tells the story of the house itself as well as something of the history of Ilkley (spa town – visited by Darwin on a spa break!)
I am coming back to this project after having focused on 3.1,3.2 and 3.3 since writing the above in feb. I have not stopped thinking about it during this time however and have made contacts and done some reading/searching. I have been up in Settle since wednesday this week, and on thursday I walked up to the caves: doing the four and a half mile ‘Settle loop’. This involved a lot of uphill walking, but the day was warmer and drier than for a long time. I visited Jubilee cave first before going onto Victoria cave – I tend to take for granted that I grew up in a caving area. It is famous as a potholing centre. My drawing does not have to be installed in Victoria cave. The photos I took below are from Jubilee cave. The colours inside the cave are spectacular. The cave has several entrances.
And here are some photographs from Victoria cave. The photos do not do justice to how large this cave is. I thought that the entrance must have been dynamited: it is at least 30 feet high and 40 or 50 feet across, but apparently the early explorers dug out the present entrance. In the middle row of 4 photos, I am already inside the cave, and the black hole is entrance to a further cavity. The top right photo is the cave roof at this point.
I feel pleased with the performance of my iPhone camera on this occasion than usual. It has managed to capture both the colouring in the rock but also hasn’t done too bad a job at capturing distance in the landscape.
I am particularly pleased that I have made contact with Tom Lord, who has offered to have a chat with me – I have lots of questions about the finds – for example, what does he make of the speculation that this cave, or Attermire, a little further along (where part of a roman chariot was found) might have been shrines at one point? am I correct in thinking there is no evidence of human habitation? When did bear live in these hills and when did they become extinct? Tom has already sent me some papers to read.
The drawing support
This course is called EXPLORING DRAWING MEDIA and the project I have embarked on here should fundamentally be about exploring drawing media because I want to use drawing media that are sympathetic to the site. (i.e. not only the drawing but the materials need to be chosen in response to the site). The site is precious and relatively pristine (except that one of the caves has been blown open!) I do not want to damage the site or impose my footprint upon it. My first consideration is to choose materials that will not harm the environment and therefore all plastic is out. In respect to the animal ancestors that lived in or near the site, I do not want to use animal products either (well I don’t want to use animal products at all, ever).
I have decided that experimentation and research into environmentally and vegan friendly medium is too big a project for this exercise and that I should do this research and continue with this project in Assignment 3 – I will particularly experiment with supports/glue/gesso/drawing medium and varnishes. For the assignment I will also do research into prehistoric cave drawings. For this exercise (3.4) I will focus mainly on the composition and drawing content – making decisions about what feels appropriate to include in a drawing for a cave (which contained elephant bones and lies on the mid craven fault line – raising ideas about disruption, movement, fracture, earthquake).
Today I made a start on some preliminary ‘background’ sheets:
I am interested in the north Yorkshire-African connection (which I will explain further in the assignment for part three) and this obviously brings maps to mind. I found an interesting article exploring reasons for the rise of mapping in art and map art here:
I had thought Mehretu’ work to be concerned with mapping and identity . She talks about her art being a process of asking questions about who she is and what she thinks, which perhaps is what all art is about. I guess maps in art are often related to exploring who we are, as part of a psychological investigation, but like Phillipa Dobson’s work, discussed above, they may be used to explore political issues relating to colonisation (perhaps Mehretu’s interest is both personal and political) or geological/environmental issues relating to the formation of landmass and environmental/ecological issues (which is why I am interested in them).
The questions that Mehretu explores in the link above seem largely related to what is going on in contemporary USA. For example her paintings focus on the olympic games in the USA and the USA’s involvement in conflict in Afghanistan. Many of the symbols in the work are of the American flag. Flags are about mapping because they declare national identity, allegiance and ownership. Mehretu is also very interested in architecture and important national buildings – her mark making is often imposed on top of architectural drawings. Power is central to her questioning – who has it and how does possession of power disempower others. The sheer size of her works is hugely impressive and massive size always imparts ideas about power. If I ever get the opportunity I would love to see the paintings. I feel sure that such huge works can’t be properly appreciated on my 6 x 9 screen.
But without having seen it, her art seems difficult to interpret. It SEEMS like a random and chaotic series of marks. It is not work that I have an emotional connection or reaction to. The works feel like explosions – it’s interesting that the energy comes from the centre-out. I notice the corners are left almost untouched in the works above. (I notice Mehretu calls them paintings rather than drawings, but this may not be significant). NB Mehretu’s art is very much NOT installation art since it seems to be aimed at very large white white cubes!
I quite like some of the marks in these background sheets above, and don’t want to lose them all. The question of course is – ‘What are these backgrounds for?’ and currently I am thinking most about the elephant, hippo and rhino bones found in the cave and the ever growing likelihood of the extinction of the African elephant. I’d like to reference the elephant or rhino in all the drawings. It seems relevant to focus on absence and disappearance of the elephant. I’ve been thinking about some ways of experimenting with this:
1.Collaged elephant that is part of the picture but very faint. This could be because covered with something e.g. glaze (as in experiments for part one on liquid medium), or tracing paper, or soft pastel.
2. Photo transfer of elephant – elephant only partly transferred? I like this idea and need to make laser copy of elephant to transfer. nb. my sketchbook wouldn’t stand up to transfer and needs to be done on washi paper. Could then glue washi on top of one of the backgrounds above and should come through.
3. Huge blown up elephant used as underdrawing with gesso on top and worked with other medium.
4. Tracing of part of elephant added to drawing or walls/ceiling of cave.
5. As above but using mono print.
6. Black and white photo made on inkjet printer with elephant rubbed out in part (thinking of Jonathan’s Owen’s work on absence).
I never cease to be amazed by synchronicity in life. I just wrote the above an hour ago about maps and then I opened the link to the OCA weekend bulletin only to find a blog from an OCA tutor about what she is up to – and that just happens to be exploring her interest in place and maps:
I made the prints I need for the ideas above today, including the black and white photo that I intend using for rubbing, based on Jonathan Owen’s work on absence that we are asked to research for part four of this course. As far as I can understand Owen uses old photographs and an eraser to remove parts of the photo and then replaces the gaps with drawing (he uses other interesting methods to explore absence too, including filing away parts of 3D sculptures, tearing and burning photos and weaving different photos together- the last is something I will also like to try).
I don’t know Owen’s exact process but guessed if using old photographs that inkjet might be closer than laser prints. So my process was to find an elephant – ‘lasso’ it and transfer the elephant to a photograph I took from outside the cave. I did a little work in ‘photo edit’ and also remembered to flip horizontally. (However I should not have done because now its actually the wrong way round!) Then I took to the printer and had an A3 inked print made in black and white on fairly good quality glossy paper (I would have liked better quality but they didn’t seem to have it). I bought a good quality rubber while I was in the print shop. Actually I was skeptical that this would work and set off rubbing furiously – which is completely unnecessary – in fact very gentle rubbing is called for. So this is going to be an interesting process and here is the start:
Wow! is all I can say. Exciting possibilities.
I did some more work on it below. Strangely the rubbing out on black turns rather lilac on this version of inkjet print. (thinking about this later i think it is more likely that the black ink I have rubbed off gets transferred back from the rubber to the paper and I need to keep the rubber cleaner if I don’t want lilac – although in this drawing I am happy to go with it). After rubbing out I gave it a light sand all overt to give some texture for drawing on, and then I gave it a coat of gesso. The brush I used is the same one for the blue background above with windsor and newton calligraphy blue ink and traces were left on the brush. Accidents are always good.
and then I did some work with pencil and chalk:
This morning I am thinking I need to go caving! I wonder if some kind caver could take me further into the caves? It will be one of my questions for Tom Lord.
My plan today is to work on the picture above – it needs both lightening and more marks. Currently I feel that the photograph worked best in its second incarnation above but hopefully I can rescue it. I will also work on the photo transfer and perhaps make some decisions/start work on the prepared backgrounds. I like having several drawings on the go at the same time so I can switch back and forth while I think about what each needs next.
Today I’ve been working on the blue ink background above,
After drying bits of the tracing paper were coming off here and there so I pulled it off where it was loose. Given that it feels there is nothing to lose in this drawing because the background paper is so bumpy, I decided to also cover the elephant and background with candle wax as an encaustic finish. It doesn’t show well in a photo, but wax does give additional polish, like glass, and an added opaque layer.
My sketchbook does not stand up to mixed media if it is wet – and here I have used both ink and very watered down gouache. The page buckled badly – particularly after I stuck the tracing paper down – and the page fell out of the sketchbook (middle papes). NB If planning to use wet media start with cartridge paper – even if an experimental sketch, and stick down with brown paper tape.AND BUY a sketchbook with REALLY heavyweight paper.
If using tracing paper don’t paint the back with PVA glue – it curls badly and is difficult to stick down. Instead use spray glue on the drawing and use a ‘mask’ to stop the glue going everywhere.
Think about investing in a heat gun – the kind use for melting sugar – wax is not doing my iron any favours and I think a heat gun would work better anyway.
The sky could be lighter – another layer of gouache or thicker gouache.
Things that work: I like the colours – they remind me that these rocks were probably under the sea at some point. I think that the rocks work well and there is some interesting mark making. I like the composition. I like the two layers of opacity (tracing paper and wax) over the elephant – it reminds me of animals trapped in captivity behind glass in zoos – as if they exist for us rather than themselves. Also this elephant is looking through a wall of time back to when she roamed around unhampered by human destruction of her environment.
Today I started on both a photo transfer and ‘cave drawings’ (well all these are cave drawings as in ‘drawings for a cave’).The photo transfer is on washi paper which stands up to a lot of washing (I literally put it in a sink of water several times). Photo transfer would not work on cartridge paper – it must be cardi or some other organic material – cotton based is good. The mono print cave drawings are also on washi – I wanted something thin that I could collage on top of something else.
Started on stage two of the photo transfer and mono print above. I have added a layer of the same high gloss medium used for transfer on top of photo – this gets rid of some of the final white ‘papery’ finish. I spray glued it to a piece of cartridge paper – thinking it would be good if a few faint marks came though I worked with felt tip haphazardly on the cartridge paper first – the marks came though rather more than expected – in the sky at least! Then I gave it a coat of clear gesso.
Then worked on it a bit with biro and pastel:
I have decided, rather than installing one drawing, I will hold a ‘mini’ exhibition in the cave- this might be the only exhibition of my work I ever have – and I might be the sole ‘gallery’ visitor. So this morning I have carefully mounted each drawing – mostly to give it support to be propped up, and unfortunately I don’t have enough mount board to give each drawing more than a tiny boarder, but they look like a set of work to me. I am determined to finish the fourth drawing which is going to be very different. SO non of them are realist drawings, since they all contain elements that do, of course, not exist in current reality, but they move from drawing one above, which in terms of drawing technique is the most realist and is an external view of the world, toward drawing four, which will be slightly more abstract and an ‘internal’ view of the cave. What ties them together as a group is of course the themes – the cave as a symbol of change, connections and care of the environment and our amazing animal species.
Here is the start of drawing four. I decided not to use one of my prepared backgrounds above because they are in my sketchbook and this would necessitate pulling another page out of it for the ‘exhibition’. So a new piece of cartridge paper with pencil, biro, quink black ink, charcoal, and lots of rubber. I hope to use my mono prints above on it, though they are rather big for the size of paper and would be more suitable for an A1 drawing:
Today I walked up to the caves again and ‘installed’ the drawings.This was not as easy as I had anticipated because I found I could either focus on the drawing with my camera – in which case the back of the cave was in total darkness, or I could focus on the back of the cave in which case the photograph was a white blur. It was also very difficult to find a level patch of dry ground or rock to balance the drawings on and I had to go further and further into the cave, which was a little scary on my own:
I feel that the drawings ‘fit’ in the cave. In the one above, for example, I think that the colours of the drawing, and the colours of the rock, particularly in the fourth drawing up of the same scene from the mouth of the cave, are extraordinarily well matched. It also extraordinary how some of the lines in the caves continue in the drawings – take for example the path in the drawing above – it continues exactly onto the rock. If you follow the line of the near left hill up it continues outside the frame of the drawing. Its startling to find the initials WP carved into the rock above the third drawing down. Other continuities are found in the first drawing – the most obvious is the white mark running from the cave wall into the drawing, but also the foreground of the drawing seems to run into the foreground of the rock. Non of these continuities were noticed at the time (including the most obvious WP initials!): my choice about where to place the drawings was based purely on trying to find a level and reasonably less muddy spot. I am not sure how to use this ‘framing’ but I think I should not forget about it.
I do not want to pick out one drawing as working ‘best’ since I feel they belong together as a set. there are bits in all I like – the sense of place as well as space in the first one above from the mouth of the cave – and the colours are very evocative of the North Yorkshire landscape; the sense of mystery and mark making in the charcoal interior of the cave; the colours and the technique of rubbing away part of the elephant in the elephant looking into the cave from the photo. The elephant looking into the cave starting with the blue background is the drawing I would most like to redo – taking into account the learning listed above. But I like the idea of building up layers of opacity using wax and tracing paper. What would happen if I stuck the tracing paper down with a layer of melted wax beneath it instead of glue and then another layer of wax on top? I need to find out!
Historically, a two-dimensional artwork acted like a window. The viewer knew to focus on the space inside the frame and allow themselves to be transported imaginatively into that space. With the advent of the expanded field and installation art, we have the potential to use devices and experiences long used by architects and others to create spaces which can be experienced more immersively. This exercise asks you to see if you can affect a room (and the way it is read or felt) by using a three-dimensional drawing. (EDM Handbook)
1. Find a room to make your ‘drawing’. You might be able to make a temporary drawing in a room somewhere interesting like a castle or a shop.
2. Choose a material you can easily use to ‘draw’ a line. It might be wool, florist’s wire, bean canes or even flour or sand. You might even use water. Does the room you’ve chosen suggest a material?
3. If possible, take photos of the room, sketch it or use an iPad to plan your proposed intervention in the space.
4. Make your drawing, responding to the physical properties of the room and your thoughts on how it is experienced by visitors or even just by you.
I note that the brief focuses on drawing a ‘line’. I have imagined all kinds of possibilities for this project but have not yet come up with anything that I feel any excitement about. Feeling desperate I googled ‘drawing a line in space’ while on the train to Leeds (heading for Settle, north yorkshire) last weekend. Up came the Leeds University Art and Design school and an exhibition there called ‘What is a space of a line?’. This exhibition is curated by Eirini Boukla, artist and lecturer on the BA Art and Design at Leeds University. It is on from the 13 feb -12 March 2018. Artists from around the world were invited to engage with two well known idioms “drop me a line” and “answers on a postcard”, alongside the notion that:
a line is a mark that spans its distance between two points taking any form along its way.
… Boukla is interested in contemporary drawing practice. Her research interests are built around the practice of tracing and notions of reuse, reassemble, recombine.
SO, I decided to miss my train to Settle and track up to the University, (on the way passing the window in Leeds General Infirmary behind which I spent an unhappy year working as a medical secretary when I was 19, and Leeds Metropolitan university where I spent the subsequent three years training to be a teacher). Only to find the doors to the exhibition firmly locked (the site neglects to say the opening hours – and this was still 9.30 am on Saturday morning – I caught the train at 6.30 am). The good news is that the exhibition was in the foyer, and I could peer through the glass doors to make out the postcards – more or less. Basically people had sent drawings on a postcard to Eirini. Hmmm. I am not sure this takes me much further in relation to impacting on how a space is experienced. Perhaps I can use postcards too? Here are some poor photos – remember I am excluded: an outsider – and they are taken through glass doors – in fact I have mostly photographed the large screen inside the foyer on which the postcards were being shown, and the grid on many of the postcards is actually the greed on the screen not the postcards themselves.
8 March 2018
I have made a decision to focus on outdoor space rather than a room for this project. At the footpath entrance to the car park from Duke Steet, through which I walk up to my collage in settle on my way from the railway LINE, there is an old beech tree that the council have given the adjacent rugby club permission to fell because they argue it impacts on the drainage work they want to do in the corner of the pitch abutting the tree. The tree is not on the rugby club’s land but on the public footpath and it DOES have a tree protection order (TPO Number 174 2009.
There is some local opposition to the felling of this beautiful tree and the argument has been put forward that there are alternative ways of draining the land that do not require a long standing and precious tree to be destroyed.
I have decided that my ‘line’ will be related to this environ and the issue of tree felling generally, and probably involve chalk,and hopefully might involve some other protestors. That is about as far as I have got at the moment.
I have decided to develop Boukla’s postcard idea and today wrote to all my peers -posting both on gmail and Drawing1 Facebook, and asking for contributions to this project in the form of drawings, poems, myths about beech trees . My idea is to fasten them to yellow ribbon, instead of using chalk, and tie the ribbon between the beech trees (there are a couple of adjacent smaller beech trees). The idea of yellow ribbon comes from the old song – tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree if you still love me. I will photograph any images sent and post them on this blog. I will also laminate the images before using them. I will also try to contact the campaign members in Settle to ask them if they would like to contribute (I have having difficulty finding any contact details for those involved presently). I will also make drawings myself. My initial idea was to try to get 150 images to represent each year of the beech’s life, but that is probably overly optimistic!
I am blown away by the generosity of my fellow artists at OCA. I have had lots of responses to my request (put out on our group email and also our group email page. Jo, from the OCA also offered to post a request for more drawings/poems/collages on the OCA weekend bulletin which comes out today. I have already had one kind person contact me as a result of this. Here are the works that have arrived so far. Most of them have come through the post and this is a lovely welcome change to receiving bills and catalogues, which these days make up most of my mail through the door.
All week I have been anxiously waiting for the post and then excitedly opening the beautiful contributions that have continued to arrive. Some people have sent their own poems, or collages, or poems and songs from others, or knitting, or lovely drawings. All are precious. I have photographed them below. My next step today is to finish laminating everything. I am using a matt laminate pouch and ironing it to seal. It works well on paper so you can’t really tell it is there. On knitting, and on the canvas, for example, it seals round the edges and will protect the work. I recognise the contradiction of using a plastic material in a project focused on the environment and this has been a real dilemma. I felt I had to use it because otherwise the messages for the tree will be destroyed within a day or so in the fairly harsh north Yorkshire environment. I am open to comments on this from the artists who have contributed – do email me with your thoughts.
The stunning image above, submitted by Janet is made from the photograph of the actual beech that I put up on our drawing fcebook page. Janet has photocopied it onto paper that she has previously worked on with watercolours and then worked on it more with pencil, before cutting it into four separate images.
And here, I think is my first one from Germany, to remember a brother/sister tree destroyed there:
This weekend I went up to Settle expressly to make contact with the campaigners for the beech. This was surprisingly difficult, with everyone I spoke to telling me they knew about the campaign but didn’t know who was involved. In such a small place this seemed odd. It began to seem like a big secret. But on my last day I finally spoke to two people who were part of the campaign group. I explained this project and asked them to share it with the others. I also passed my email details on and a link to this blog for more information with a message to say more submissions from them also welcome. I want to make sure that the people who have already worked so hard on behalf of the beech do not feel in any way concerned by my intervention. I think that any art project that involves others must consider ethics and I have tried to be careful regarding transparency, inclusion and appreciation for everyone involved. (I will reflect more on this at the end).
A couple more fabulous drawings/collages/poems were waiting for me on my return from Settle this weekend:
For my contribution I want to add some information about beech trees, and about this beech tree in particular, for example, exactly where it is. I got the idea, because beech wood was used to write on before paper, that making a ‘book’ with information about the beech would be a good idea. The word for beech and book is the same word in several languages (boch in German and bok in Swedish). The first idea I wanted to convey is that the beech is considered the queen of trees (the oak is considered the King of course!):
(the paper used for the ‘book page’ above is Japanese washi paper that I first put in a bath of water, then dipped a piece of wool in ink and twirled over the paper. The map base is cartridge paper painted/dripped with black quick ink, slate blue and turquoise water based dr. martins and then spray bleached-run under the tap/ironed – it seems to have survived ok).
I am still receiving drawings – one yesterday and another today, however I feel I probably won’t get many more. Last weekend when I went up to Settle I managed to make contact with the campaigners and shared the link to this blog. I have had some positive feedback on the project and offers of help to put it up, including step ladders. I was told that the campaign had slightly lost its momentum as these things are bound to do, and that this may help reinvigorate it. It will be great if so. I am now organising a date to go up there to ‘install’ these messages in support of the beech tree. I have thanked each individual for their contribution and shared all drawings on our Facebook drawing page, along with regular updates. The only thing left to do now before I go back up to Settle is to buy the yellow rope (I have decided yellow ribbon is not strong enough). I will tie each work to the rope with yellow ribbons. It’s going to look fabulous. I already guessed, and one of the campaigners confirmed, that we might expect vandalism. My feeling about this is that while our work may be damaged or destroyed, the love that artists bear for nature and, trees particularly, will live on and protect the tree. In the end it is not our art but our collective love that makes a difference. (I use the term ‘love’ in the sense of Eric Fromm who defines love as focused attention and care). Love lingers and lives on, while destruction in the end will only damage the destroyer.
Here are the 46 outcome – ready to go – of our collaborative love for the beech tree/s (one is under threat but others nearby may be damaged) in Settle. I hope if you contributed, you will be able to spot yours. I will of course post photos of the works installed.Thank you!
Today I put up the installation with the help of John and Jenny – two local campaigners to save the tree:
The brief is to effect how a space is experienced. I cannot of course say how the installation will impact on people’s sense of the space.My hope is that they will be affected by the time and trouble that people from all over Europe have taken to draw a picture and/or find a poem for the beech tree under threat. My hope is that when people walk along the footpath they will pause to pay attention to some of the drawings and the words written on them – we have poems from Blake, Gabril, Hardy, Owen and others. I would like to think this will add to the wonder of nature and people’s respect and love of it. I hope that the drawings will add weight to the view that this beautiful, healthy, 150 year old tree, should not be destroyed, just as all of nature and our environment should be cared for and protected by the people who share this amazing planet with all trees, all of nature and other animals. I hope it will lead to the reflection that human beings can be extremely destructive, but they are also capable of acts of kindness, caring and protection.