For the past few weeks I have been working with Emma Drye on an exploratory drawing project.
Drawing has always been a strong element of my work. A way to test ideas out. Recording the flow of thoughts on paper works particularly well since it enables my ideas to be contained within a physical form while also allowing a continual shifting of meaning to take place.
A drawing I have made often surprises me by taking on an entirely new meaning at a later date. Or losing its meaning completely. Drawing is also a way of exploring fear, a way of capturing an unpleasant knot of feeling and untangling it, exploring it, understanding it and rendering it mute. For this reason I am always learning from my drawing. My drawing is learning from me too, though it is less able to fight back since it is captured within two dimensions. -not like some of my other sculptural objects, which have been behaving badly recently.
With this in mind, I was keen to find an opportunity to explore how the drawing process might develop in collaboration with another artist.
Emma and I agreed at the beginning of the project that we wouldn’t discuss the drawing we were going to create. It seemed important that the physical object we produced together should not be too constrained by verbal language.
And so we ventured forth with our large roll of paper.
During the drawing process I noticed perceptible differences in the way we were drawing depending on our mood. It seemed that we were picking up on recent encounters and events as well as responding to each other. We began quite cautiously, slowly building up trust, but gradually I began to feel irresistible temptation to add to Emma’s drawings. I suspect that had the project lasted longer we may have encountered further boundary crossing as it is so prevalent in my nature.
I was very interested in the fact that Emma appeared to be drawing her high definition monsters in a way that gave them very clear outer lines. She sometimes drew from source images, allowing a high level of detail, creating boundaries that could not be easily crossed by my charcoal without appearing as rough, inconsiderate sabotage. As the week wore on her monsters grew larger, more terrifying and increasingly dominant in the middle of the paper. Fairly early on she drew the first tentative horizon line which would later become so dominant in the panorama, but interestingly her monsters became more and more disconnected from any context or landscape.
My approach was quite different. As I have been exploring landscape through drawing a lot over the past few years I felt compelled to take up the horizon line that Emma had started and began to draw a series of mountains which acted as platforms for ideas about human desire. Each new mountain needed to dwarf its predecessor as I became caught up with the desire to create new land masses and continents, populated by small people and traces of human endeavour.
At times I felt it was necessary to respond in a very direct way to some of the images that Emma had drawn, so at points the drawing became punctuated by re-occuring symbols. Parts of the drawing also bled slightly off the edge of the paper and a few new symbols became integrated into the drawing directly from the cityscape outside the window. In this way the drawing began to grow more and more like a web of connections. (while also maintaining disruptions)
A good range of really interesting subjects were raised by those who joined the crit.
It seemed that our imagery conjured up ideas of a post apocalyptic landscape, mythological morality tales and childhood experiences of play, among other things.
I was surprised that many members of the group seemed determined to find the key, or crack the code that would unlock the meaning of the work. I never think of the things I make in this way myself, but perhaps saying this is a translation of ‘looking for a way in’ to the work, which we are all doing every day. The word ‘code’ seems a little reductive in describing the way we think about art.
Interesting comments were made about the use of scale within the drawing as well as observations of my rendering of gravity in the drawing. This seemed to develop through some of the actions being carried out by the human figures within the landscape along with the rendition of hooks and strings; sometimes holding things down, sometimes suspending things in mid air.
The most contentious comment that was made was the suggestion that there wasn’t enough rendering in the drawing, or that at times the drawing seemed to struggle to fill the paper. This is an interesting comment because it brings us back to the collaborative relationship and the disjunction of drawing styles.
I normally draw completely for memory as I feel that it simplifies my image. The way I draw could be described as dreamlike in that parts of the vision are seen in clear detail while other parts fade away. I see this as being closer to the way memory works and is certainly the way I remember my own dreams. I wonder whether this might be quite an unusual drawing style given that the viewer expects to see a more photograph-like, fully rendered and detailed image.This in turn raises questions about the finishing of a piece of work, a subject which I will have to return to later.
I have learnt many things through this project. There are many ideas still to be explored further, and it remains to be seen how they will filter back into my studio practice over the coming weeks.