Drawing Towards Sculpture [ONE]

Establishing a repertoire of marks to explore an imagined space. That’s what I imagined myself articulating when I set out to write a blog post about a set of collage-drawings I made in June. These drawings are a transitional stage between sketches made in the garden and an imagined/virtual space. I make sketches and take photographs in the location, make bigger drawings from these in the studio, tear these up and use them as the base for the collage-drawings which are then transferred to virtual spaces as a preliminary to being recreated, and thus further altered in a manufactured physical space.

Drawing is about looking. Looking at the object or scene and looking at the paper or ground (or should that be support?) and looking at both simultaneously. Drawing is translating your feelings in the presence of the object/scene into a surface that communicates. Henri Matisse stated that his ‘…line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion’ and Picasso that ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing’ (Worsdale et al, 2007)1. Something beyond draughtsmanship creates a drawing that makes connections with an audience.

These drawings are a means to an end, or rather a step on a meandering journey, the end is vague like the horizon, affect not effect. The translation of feeling is semi-conscious in that occasionally a further use for the mark you make occurs and in doing so conditions the next mark you make, sometimes to its detriment. Sometimes the things you imagine as you copy become the things you copy and sometimes you don’t want this. This is why I make drawings to destroy or recreate in three dimensions. Even where a drawing is an accurate enough depiction to be recognised, either generally or specifically, this is not the whole of its intention. I note to myself at this point that if this were drawing as a cure for cancer it would be homeopathy.

Cézanne writes to Emile Bernard on the 23rd October 1905 “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”.(Derrida, 1978) 2. Derrida uses this as a departure for a series of musings on the nature of truth in painting. Here are four interpretations of the meaning of ‘the truth in painting’ I found in a breakdown online at Kent State University. 3. They address the questions I’m trying to ask, albeit considering painting.

(1) the thing itself (truth as unhiddenness, disclosure, presentation; unveiled with no disguise whatever).
(2) an adequate, accurate representation of the thing itself—Heidegger’s secondary sense of truth.  These two concepts of truth enable one to generate four possibilities: a presentation of a representation (see, look at this photograph, here); a presentation of a presentation (“Behold, the man!”); a representation of the presentation (a painting of the situation in which the presentation just mentioned occurred); and representation of the representation (a slide of the painting).
(3) the truth in the sense proper to a picture (whatever that may be—a play of possibilities opens up here), as opposed to truth in the sense proper to an essay, for example.
(4) the truth about painting.

These potential revelations are always present in an encounter with an artwork, what it presents itself as being, what it copies, the context in which you encounter it, the truth it tells as you interpret it, what is open to you from your contribution and what is closed to you through your ignorance. They apply equally on all occasions to the artist as much as the audience especially if you follow Picasso’s instruction.

So these drawings are made to be a staging post, a base camp, before the assault on a greater challenge. They explore the nature of the spaces between the branches and twigs of the trees, the sky and the ground, the garden and the gardener, the now and the remembered. The space between the intention to make a mark and the making of that mark.

This is one of the drawings the others were made from, in this set there are 41 A1 collage/drawings. They can all be seen in this gallery

NOTES:
1. Worsdale, G et al (2007). DRAW Conversations around the legacy of drawing. England: MIMA. These are quoted by Gordon Burn and Jennifer Higgie in short essays in the catalogue to mima’s (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) inaugural exhibition. They are unattributed there and I have been unable to find a source so may be apocryphal.
2. Derrida, J (1987). The Truth in Painting. (Translation Bennington G, McLeod I). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
3. The Truth in Painting. 2007. Aesthetics Notes for Students. [Online]. [19 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.personal.kent.edu/~jdrake3/JeffreyWattles/Aesthetics/Aesthetics10.html

Being in the moment

Dogwalk 2008 Twigs, pins, paper

 

I’ve always felt the worst thing you can do is think. When I’m making I need to dissociate myself from everything and act automatically if the work is to be any good. Clearly this is not axiomatic, there is too much evidence to the contrary in my drawers.

 

 

 

Dogwalk 1 2008, Twigs, paper pins

 

When I moved to Doncaster I had limited space to work and certainly no space for sculpture. I continued a habit of collecting ‘stuff’ as I walked my dogs, twigs, bits of detritus, feathers, etc., and kept a bag full of it in the garage. Periodically I would spend time joining these bits together. The model for this activity for me was David Smith’s residency in Italy at Voltri in 1962.

 

 

Dogwalk 2 2008 pins, paper, twigs

 

Smith was invited to make two sculptures for the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, and given the choice of five abandoned welding factories around Genoa. He chose one in the small town of Voltri. Inspired by the wealth of material available he made 27 sculptures in 30 days. The Wall Street Journal has a good article here.

 

 

Voltri VII

David Smith Voltri VII, 1962 Photo: © The Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

Finding an array of parts, wheels, girders, tools and so on, Smith just built. I can imagine the energy generated by the sheer joy of combining these objects.

I adopted this approach when I discovered it because that kind of energy can only work when decisions become intuitive. I find that I work best when I have progressed beyond careful consideration into try and fail, try and fail, try and accept. I won’t say succeed.

 

 

Since then I have had a working practice, that I’m still tied to, that means I can work for an hour or so each day before I have to stop. The next day I need to be able to pick up the traces quickly, contemplation is not an option when time is limited. So I built small sculptures at a rapid rate, developing the ideas quickly, each responding to whatever I pulled out of the bag, and began to notice connections rather than engineering them. The ‘dogwalks’ maquettes, never to be realised as sculpture, are my effort at generating this kind of energy

 

Voltri VI

Voltri VI, 1962 Steel, 98 7/8 x 102 1/4 x 24 in. (251.1 x 259.7 x 61 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas 1978.A.0 .

 

reference for Voltri VI

reference for Voltri VII




Woman Walking with Hand to Mouth

Four views of a work in progress.  This is four views of a single figure, about one metre tall, made from hardboard and fixed with a glue gun.  The figure is from Muybridge– ‘Woman walking with hand to her mouth’

Woman Walking Downstairs

The desire here is to get the kind of movement you find in Duchamp into the single figure, or to simply have the movement apparent in the static representation, so it’s very much a first version, and very much unfinished.

That may be a characteristic of my work on reflection, the ‘unfinished’ quality. I won’t claim it as deliberate, but then I do stop.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

The process I try to follow when I work is to work without reference, to try to let the object dictate it’s own result.  There are some other examples here

Acknowledgements:

wikimedia commons Eadweard Muybridge

Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 – wikipedia 21/04/12