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
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: https://www.personal.kent.edu/~jdrake3/JeffreyWattles/Aesthetics/Aesthetics10.html