Thursday, October 11, 2007

Comments on 'The Draw of Drawing'

David Musgrave: Transparent Head, 2003 [MUSGD031148]
Materials: framed graphite on paper
Dimensions: 29 x 24cm
Courtesy of: greengrassi

Yesterday I went to the lecture Michael Archer was giving on The Draw of Drawing. This was the second in the Diversity of Drawing series of lectures at the National Gallery.

Michael Archer is the Head of School at the Ruskin School of Fine Art at Oxford University. The Ruskin and Dorling Kindersley are both sponsoring these events. I've just noticed that this post and the Sarah Simblet one might make my blog look like some sort Ruskin/Dorling Kindersley spin off this week - but no such luck!

It was an interesting lecture and erred on the side of the conceptual and a different perspective on the act of drawing. It also involved rather different images of drawing from those we might be used to.

I certainly found the lecture interesting and stimulating and I'm highlighting some of the points he made below together with artists and images I've found links for. I've also included comments and observations by me in italics. What follows is from my notes so all errors of interpretation are mine alone. Those who want to expand their horizons re the practice of drawing - read on!
  • a reminder of the Paul Klee observation that a drawing is about taking a line for a walk
  • drawing is part of the process of negotiating our relationship with the external world
  • drawing involves making a representation of our external world - but this can be done in different ways and can involve sculpture
    • drawing pathways is a drawing of a human relationship with the world
    • landscape architects may design an environment and include paths but people will walk where they want to walk. We can observe (or make) a line across grass made by walking (Richard Long 1967) - a real path across real grass is a desire line (although I'd also observe it's often the shortest line between two points when people are short of time - which also makes it a practical line within all possibilities!).
    • another way of drawing a line or lines is by removing part of the environment - such as by mowing through the daisies (You can see more examples of lines in the landscape on Richard Long's website)
    • the drawing for and sculture of Alberto Giacometti's L'homme qui marche' shows how a very insistent additive process of a man walking in a line, making marks as he goes with the same movements again and again, can be reduced to almost nothing (You can see other drawings and sculpture by Giacometti in the MOMA collection; Tate Modern and at Artcylopedia)
  • looking at the ways people make marks and lines in their environment - some examples:
    • Francis Alys, a Belgian artist living in Mexico, took his dog for a walk on a lead. His dog is metal and magnetised and it collects all the little bits of metal along its path as it moves through the city. He draws a line by walking and makes a mark - where the metal is no longer.
    • (In addition, here are some links I found on the internet to other projects of Francis Alys involving taking a line for a walk - when faith moves mountains and the flagpole and its shadow in Mexico City)
  • drawing is dealing with the very primary making of marks. Those marks may be very representative of how an individual sees the world. Another Richard Long example - mud hand circles (1989) - more examples here.
  • In making a mark one can also be obscuring or covering up - only the artist can unveil the final work. John Beldesarri's work "I will not make any more boring artwork" cited as an example where what he was writing could not be seen until he finished. (Further comments about "I will not make any more boring art" and here.)
  • a mark might be about making progress across a surface. It might not be connected to anything else in the world, it might just be about getting from one side to the other using movements which are as satisfactory as possible. (Simblet suggests in her book that the drawing also suggests letters being written over and over again)
    • Cy Twombly, an abstract expressionist painter created a drawing of swirling loops moving from one side to the other
    • (This blog post has got an image of the drawing which was discussed as an example. There are other versions eg of horizontal circles being repeated. Here are links to more drawings by Cy Twombly - in MOMA)
  • an example of a drawing by Santiago Sierra was highlighted as fundamentally challenging the ethics of drawing practice (and isn't getting a link from this blog!)
  • an example by Basquiet called 'Charlie Parker Reeboppers'. This was apparently a joke about iconic images of minimalism (the simple black square) and how you can take it and play with it (You can see more examples of drawings by Jean Michel Basquiet at the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of Basquiet's work and from reference links on wikipedia)
  • Giacomo's Balla's (Futurist) painting "Bankruptcy"(1902) - is an example of the way people draw and leave echoes of themselves. They inscribe themselves or their marks on the door, these are rubbed out, more marks get made on top......and so it goes on. The drawing physically represents people taking advantage of a situation and acting selfishly (I guess the equivalent nowadays are the graffiti artists who work on the streets - Basquiet was an example in the USA)
  • How do you decide what to draw? A drawing might appear to be an example of good drawing technique - however there might also be an alternative perspective.
    • Archer used the example of David Musgrave's drawing "Transparent Head" (2003). This looks likes a carefully constructed head as if one were looking straight through it - but is actually the drawing of the cellophane which Musgrave had just removed from a CD and scrumpled up in his hand. (It struck me as possibly also being a comment on the modern version of the art school exercise of drawing paper bags. Musgrave also curated A Drawing Room exhibition about "Waste". and also did a similar drawing in 2005 called "Transparent Animal")
  • Finally - drawing is essentially about "I'm here and I need to go there. How am I going to get there?"
Note about the sketch:
You can see more about the three sketches I made on this visit to the National Gallery on my other blog in Drawings from the National Gallery. None are very conceptual!



  1. Hi katherine!
    a very interesting blog as always, the term drawing, these days does not just mean useing a pencil or pen and paper as i am finding out with my own research.
    may I use your bogg for research/education purposes/ I will nees to print at least at least one post, it is about the use of bloging and situatiions for allowing artworks to come into being...I am doin a Fine Art Degree as a mature student at Portsmouth

  2. Christopher - if it's just research for educational purposes that's fine. It's certainly the case that drawing is done by more than just pencil or pen on paper. You might also want to see if you can find some of the books I'm reviewing this month in a library as they also show you different ways people make drawings.


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