Angela Eames/paper 1
|Home||Link to research section||Link to sales|
Recent publications/papers etc.
Drawing Across Boundaries Conference (Loughborough University)
Title of Paper: From Drawing to Computing and Back Again
Key Words: exists, uncertainty, transcendent, strategy, reason, static, being
Being is not unlike drawing - drawing exists
In 1987 I was working on a series of drawings, which involved multi-layers of stencilled graphite elliptical shapes on paper. Two drawings - ‘Opus’ and ‘Upstream’ are shown. (Figs 1 and 2) It was laborious. I felt like a machine. I had never had the urge to use a keyboard, with the exception of my venerable typewriter. I thought I could extend the work using a computer. As human computer, I could go so far, but maybe the genuine article could take my strategies as far as they could go. Some two years later, I gained access to one. It was difficult, without manuals or instruction, but I did have an aim - to see if the computer could produce layered ellipses. Six weeks later I found that it could and as an added extra, in terms of breaking down my mark-making skills, it was a gift.
A pair of drawings from 1988, titled ‘Outside/inside’ and ‘Inside/outside’ - each five-foot square and graphite on paper. (Figs 3 and 4) I am proposing that the current resurgence in drawing, evidenced in terms of countrywide exhibitions, the increase in educational emphasis and as the chosen topic of this conference and others, is largely due to the advances in technology itself. I suggest, that were we not faced with a somewhat myopic regard for the visual arts and computing, there would not be the intuitive and renewed interest in drawing. Wherever there is a tendency for visual work to be predicated by the medium itself, there is a need to make appropriate visual decisions and to persist in working in terms of purpose rather than style. Were we able to think and move around the computing environment in a more intuitive manner (of course this may only be a question of time and familiarity), we might be able to question and more fruitfully engage in social, cultural, political and economic issues so dramatically affected by technology. I deliberate rather than criticise. In the making and placing of marks, two and three dimensionally, drawing has ultimately led us to the electronic realm, which in turn continues to discharge responsibility and incite engagement. Drawing as visual thinking, unconstrained by means or method, is both rudimentary and vital in developing human awareness of ‘reality’ in a synthesis of natural and artificial. I am showing visual work, not necessarily drawings, as demonstrations of visual thought. My views are governed by my drawing practice and an acknowledgement or perhaps acceptance of the undefinability of drawing.
Exists-drawing as actual or virtual but nevertheless a reality
A survey of two and three-dimensional visual work reveals an interconnectedness and a separateness of these two realms. Drawing a two dimensional reality onto a two-dimensional surface from a three-dimensional reality involves the experiential. One is not making a copy of three dimensions in two dimensions. Drawing within computing does not have to be seen as the making of illusion. The computer offers a peculiarly non-physical association of mark, in the equality of presence and the quality of mark through pixels, whether monochromatic or chromatic. Traditional drawing is a physical act whereas drawing on or perhaps into a computer screen might be described as physical but different. Both activities are nonetheless real.
In a work by Robert Morris, 1985, titled Blind Time III, (Fig 5) Morris worked blindfolded, with graphite on paper for fourteen minutes. The result is an actual and physical embodiment of human intention and emotion, the intimacy of drawing and touch, between art and the body. Previous knowledge does not predict the outcome. The drawing was carried out within strictly defined parameters but contingent upon his emotional and physiological state - straightforward recording - recording III in this case - never to be repeated - an actuality. Rauschenburg’s infamous ‘Erased De Kooning’ is an actuality. (Fig 6) Though the surface of this drawing appears not to have definitive marks, it has the evidence of once-made marks. They are made present in the evidence of their absence. In acknowledging the biographic mark, Rauschenburg was rethinking the possibilities within drawing. The erased De Kooning might even be considered a virtual drawing.
Frank Auerbach’s drawing, ‘Portrait of J.Y.M.’ (Fig 7) and a work by Michael Kidner titled ‘Column No 1 in front of its own image’ (Fig 8). Both Auerbach and Kidner are drawing actualities. Auerbach has no set parameters other than there will be a search and that search will take time and commitment on the part of himself and his sitter. The drawing, Tony Godfrey writes, only comes about after endless activity before the model or subject, rejecting time and time again ideas, which are possible to preconceive. Auerbach’s approach might verge uncomfortably on aesthetic decision-making, whereas Kidner totally accepts the outcomes of his strategies. The black and white marks on the flat canvas plot the three-dimensional column from four viewpoints. The column is mapped and a new version of the column in two dimensions is revealed as an entity. The transference from three dimensions to two dimensions is not preconceived. Kidner is one of those artists engaging in spatial mergers, who through a systematic approach, explores nature, science, art and computing space.
We use the word virtual when talking about aspects of the computer-generated world and involvement with computers gives some experience of this. Benjamin Woolley describes virtuality as abstract entities, in being independent of any particular physical embodiment, but real nonetheless. ‘Virtual’, then, is a mode of simulated existence resulting from computation. As human beings, we assimilate our sensory, even hallucinatory, experiences, acting out a form of simulated existence as part of a complex survival strategy - we intuitively learn how to cope in the world. Exposure to new and different ways of seeing requires looking, absorbing, incorporating and learning. We would probably have had some difficulty in reading perspective had we been around at its inception. What is the nature of new work, which is inherently out of sight? When watching television, are we able to distinguish between two and three dimensional, digital imagery, given that the imagery is viewed through a two dimensional medium - the screen? Can we even distinguish between film and video? Can we or do we distinguish between television and the physical world? And does this all contribute to a blurring of boundaries between natural and artificial? We have to work at it to find out.
Drawing activity is tripartite, involving the observer or the investigator, the observed or the subject and the observation or the outcome. The observer or drawer considers, examines and scrutinises throughout the working process and the process culminates in actual results or drawing. When questioning, searching or commenting upon the nature of the environment via whatever means, one is engaging in the actual and the real and the outcomes are in fact actual and real. The making of a drawing which consists of physical material, whether graphite and paper or motorcycle tyres and dirt, results in an actuality - a drawing. When working with computers, the absence of the physical does not mean that the results are abstractions or not real. The outcomes of visual thought, strategy and implementation are in an equivalent sense real but they are pertinent to the virtual. Visual thought remains a critical factor in the carrying out of work.
Uncertainty - drawing as the pursuit of an untrodden path
By ‘untrodden path’, I mean the path, which each individual or group of individuals tread within their lifetime. Humans deploy eye, hand, foot and brain in response to what I would call object-interference (life-forms, buildings, objects; still and moving). We interpret space, time, substance and sound. Constraints in perception are necessary, to operate within the environment since there are aspects of which we are not fully conscious. This is not to say that one remains unconscious of these aspects. They may well reveal themselves at moments when one is less conscious and more receptive. They might not be invisible, but they can remain hidden. Uncertainty is integral to the untrodden path.
I would describe Richard Long’s work as drawing. (Fig 9) Rudi Fuchs describes Long’s word-pieces in particular as visual art using words. They are drawings using verbal language as mark and evidence. The earthwork by Michael Heizer, 1971, (Fig 10) curved lines inscribed on desert sand with a motorcycle, could be called a drawing, one which consisted of physical material, marks made by the interaction of motorcycle tyres and dirt. These works involve the linear, duration, distance and control but neither outcome emanates from preconception. In Long’s case, years of experience offer surety in procedural terms, but the individual pieces of work, in different geographical and climatic locations, embrace immediacy and uncertainty.
Jan Dibbets is an artist who uses photography as a means to draw, that which is not usually, if ever, seen. He records moments in time. In this case the point in space where the camera corrects the perspective of a drawn shape, so that the eye sees a linear square hovering somewhere between two and three-dimensional space. It is a photographic moment - a record of what the eye would see, should it be in that particular position. When Eva Hesse hung ropes and twine in space, the strands, were literally drawn through space, dangling, interconnected and amorphous, denying geometric conventions, alluding to a natural and organic order and operating between two and three-dimensional space. Both artists target the edges of visual conventions and delineate our attempts to straddle these boundaries.
The assurance with which one might work in a computing environment, (power failures aside!) whereby information can be recorded and salvaged, can be a seductive and easy route at times. We are all aware of the inability of bringing fresh words to the page when adapting texts on a word processor. How can one work with uncertainty within the computing environment? The evolution of the computing environment owes much to artists who have insistently probed space. Deception is possible because seeing is believing. If one perceives the world by virtue of corporeal dependency, then perhaps one is incapable of perceiving the totality. Deception might be the norm. Breaking through the barrier of deception which human beings intuitively construct for themselves is at the heart of drawing practice; seeing that which might be obscured in everyday, conditioned perception. Uncertainty is a paramount condition of drawing.
Transcendent - drawing as spiritual document, as revelation
The increasingly integrated nature of visual practice and the obsolescence of the four divides, Fine Art, 2D Design, 3D Design and Textiles/Fashion bears testimony to a culture of crossover. Marina Abramovic, Stelarc and Robert Smithson would, I suspect, endorse a move from a competitive society to a more compassionate society. Unfortunately the world of economics operates under different criteria, as Dennis Potter said everything was given a price tag, and the price tag became the only gospel. Economics uses both science and art but to what end? In addition, an overriding faith in something called progress makes it difficult to see the real situation. Is there a culture of crossover or are there aspects of scientific and artistic discovery, which are recognised in the marketplace and then subsumed for their monetary worth?
Stills from performance works - Abramovic’s ‘Rest Energy’ and Stelarc’s ‘Third Hand’. (Figs 13 1nd 14) Both artists have similar personal visions of the artist’s role and our future. For Abramovic the art object will give way to a world without art in the sense that we have it now. She says it will be a world without objects, where the human being can be on such a high level of consciousness and such a strong mental state that he or she can transmit thoughts and energy to other people, without needing objects in between, so there will be no sculptures or paintings or installations......... a non-objective world. Stelarc’s belief in the profound obsolescence of the human body echoes this vision although his involvement with high-tech equipment could be misleading. Whether their personal visions of the future come about or not, visual thought will still prevail, drawing as an activity will continue to exist, it will simply change its form, once again.
On the left Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. (Fig 15) Smithson embraced the essential universal force of entropy, and this often-misunderstood earthwork symbolised the obsolescence of the machine age. The spiralled jetty is steeped in symbolism; the orbit of the moon, the symbol for growth, cosmic forms in motion; the Golden Number, the snake as symbol of wisdom and eternity, nebulas, whirlpools, or the snail’s shell - the spiral as one of the essential motifs of ornamental art all over the world and as an image of contracted time. On the right a photographic slide I took when in Rio De Janeiro, (Fig 16) standing on the roof of the art school, looking up the mountain at the statue of Christ with arms outstretched. I aimed my camera at the summit of the mountain. I took the shot. Weeks later when the image was developed and as you can see damaged in the process, it took me some time to realise that it was the same shot. A cloud of mist had obscured the statue; two missiles of light had penetrated the landscape. A totally unexpected, if not suggestive image.
Strategy - drawing as endeavour encompassing intuition and rationality
Strategy might suggest a working approach devoid of emotional attachments, passion, fear, anger, and indifference but however much we try to eliminate human sensibility it remains. The implementation of strategic procedure can allow the hidden to be seen. By working strategically, human fallibility or reference can still be acknowledged whilst the risk of contamination and obfuscation is reduced. Strategies imposed by artists are continually scrutinised as to their effectiveness during the doing of work. They engage both rationality and intuition. Joseph Beuys described intuition as nothing other than that, which we understand as thought, but it is a superior form of thinking, an enlarged consciousness in which one realises that man is free. Unlike a craft tradition, where strategy controls the start and the finish of work, my own strategies inevitably break down as they are challenged and changed by a continuous probing into the what - the subject matter and the how - the investigatory means. Failure plays a significant part.
Mel Bochner’s, ‘Unlived Times - 1995’ (Fig 17) and Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Double Curve, 1988’ (Fig 18). Bochner’s constructed work proclaims the known and the unknown, notions of geometry, science, the as yet unknown and the need for us to be aware not only of this fact but that this fact will remain, despite notions of progress. Kelly’s work suggests different ways of seeing, the extent of that which we can see and that of which we might imagine or conjecture. "For almost 50 years Kelly has been attempting to free his art from associations with the material world, to cut himself loose from art as depiction and to operate in the realms of absolute abstraction. It is hard not to see this long and arduous search for pure beauty as a quest for a higher spiritual or moral truth, just as it was for Mondrian and Malevich." (Richard Dorment - on the Tate Exhibition 1997) This form of enquiry can be extended in computing. In its capacity to make the invisible, visible, and for three-dimensional simulation, the computer allows for the re-spatialisation of the visual world. The computing environment can augment our ability to perceive our visual world and our response to this revolution in time and space is critical.
A drawing now attributed to Piero Della Francesca of c1460 (Fig 19) could be considered the first wire frame drawing! Similarly a work by Vija Celmins (Fig 20) where eleven pairs of stones, each pair a real stone and an identical bronze cast painted to look exactly like the real stone, is reminiscent of solid modelling - one stone being the replication of the other! These works remind us that the computing environment reflects continuous scientific, artistic and philosophical endeavour. I am not suggesting that we have reached the apogee of human cognisance, rather that human drives, aspirations and problems are recurrent and we need to reflect upon that human consciousness in the pursuit of knowledge. We need to allow for intuition as well as rational thought within strategic procedures.
Computer programmes are usually produced in response to particular requirements. The programmer needs to know what is required so that algorithms can be structured which intentionally correspond to those requirements. The programmer could be seen to working within the craft tradition but crafts people are well aware of the happy accident or the mistake or where things don’t quite go according to plan. The integration of intuitive and accidental behaviour with the rational and planned approach is intrinsic to innovation. How else might we recognise potentials beyond our individual and necessarily limited experience?
Reason - drawing as cognitive thought
Words such as creativity, innovation, invention are often used in the defence of drawing as being critical to an explorative approach but underlying these attributes is the ability to absorb and to understand through perception, intuition and reason. David Gelernter states that human thought is laid out in a continuous spectrum.
Every human mind is a spectrum; every human mind possesses a broad continuous range of different ways in which to think. The way in which a person happens to be thinking at any given moment depends on a characteristic; he calls ‘mental focus.’ Focus can be high, low or medium; it changes throughout the day, not because the thinker continually changes it, as he might consciously raise his arm, but in subliminal response to his physiological state as a whole ... from the intense violet of logical analysis all the way downward into the soft slow red of sleep.
Two very different works referencing the head. David Mach (Fig 21) and Victor Newsome (Fig 22) are analytical in the referencing of the nature of matter, and rational in their investigation and interpretation. The Mach has presence in it’s scale; an enormous three dimensional head constructed in coat hanger wire, and the Newsome; a devastatingly clinical inquisition of headness - an archetypal head. Both are wrought from the imagination but rigorous in their manifestation.
I have an inexplicable urge to look at two pieces of work together. Gravity, mechanics, balance, weight; issues explored traditionally within drawing are evidenced here in three dimensions. Michael Craig-Martin’s ‘On the table’ (Fig 23) and Stelarc’s suspension piece (Fig 24). Of the Craig-Martin piece, Lewis Biggs states that it is like a scientific demonstration of gravity and mechanics. It adds nothing whatever to our knowledge. It aims instead to return us to the astonishment at the ordinary, which direct perception can provide when our knowledge of images and languages is momentarily - like the table - suspended. The equivalence is obvious. Stelarc in his performance piece subjects his body to hanging by flesh-hooks, attached to a number of rocks. His weight is counterbalanced by the rocks allowing us to reflect upon who or more exactly perhaps what we are. The simple parallel, devoid of issues of content, is counterbalance - which in the Stelarc piece particularly, suggests equity of matter.
High-focus thinking relates to the logical and analytical whilst low-focus thinking presents the opposite end of the spectrum, loss of control, creative fancy and an ability to be receptive to the unexpected or fantastic. The state of mind required when drawing involves high and/or low focus thinking, alert, organised and rational in a preparatory sense, the ability to survey immediate time, space and interruptions and a continuous open mindedness to the particular situation.
Not Static - drawing as continual probing
When drawing, one can experience something entirely new, find something out, see something one has never been seen before. It can change one’s view of the surrounding world, be it physical or virtual. Drawing is defined more by the activity that initiates it rather than the material it leaves its traces on.
Al Held in his ‘Inversion’ paintings of the 1970s, incised black lines on a white ground or vice versa (Fig 25), which visually cut through pictorial space. The resultant two-dimensional shapes, bounded by black line, allude to images of virtual forms, which displace and interpenetrate each other. The paintings are layerings of paint where previous layers are revealed by the application and removal of tape. The shapes are not determined by logic and the composition not dictated by reason. Despite the medium of paint the paintings align directly with drawing. The combinations and interpretations are visual conundrums. (Note that it was also in the 1970s that computers first appeared in some Fine Art departments of art schools.) Held is another example of an artist pre-empting the potential of computing space and it should be no surprise to be told that Piero Della Francesca was the artist that he most admired. Craig-Martin’s wall drawings are carried out by applying tape directly to a wall. (Fig 26) These drawn works are variable in dimension and can be adjusted to any wall size. They are immediately accessible to the viewer as clear and precise representations of everyday objects but they are simultaneously impossible spatial readings. What we see is representative of what we cannot see.
Madeleine Gins and Arakawa, delve into computing space in an extensive body of work titled ‘Landing Sites’. (Fig 27) Through visual reference to architectural building, siting, interior and exterior space, and where we as human beings place ourselves, they explore physical and virtual. These images can be interpreted or read despite their uncomfortability. A sequence of stills taken from a catalogue image illustrating the video piece ‘Corps Etranger’ by Mona Hatoum, (Fig 28) inadvertently reveals another aspect of drawing. The grid of circular images allows the viewer to grasp some of the complexity of the moving image through individual scans. They are not unique within the realm of medical imaging, but they offer a different way of observing the body. Conventions of contour and containment in two-dimensional imagery can be augmented by electronic scanning, drawing literally through an object.
Drawing allows visual thinking, engagement with other and an opportunity to reflect upon otherness. Visual engagement based on an exploration of possibility is preferable to replication. A popular misconception of the use of computers is that they provide a tool as a means of working faster or at least more precisely. Though the latter is possibly true, the former, as those working with computers will be aware, is not always, if ever, the case. I suggest that we should search out potentiality and introject the irrational into any predetermined situation; particularly those sets of instructions endemic to the computing environment.
Being - drawing as forming
It is evident that at the sharp end of visually oriented technology, computer graphics, special effects for the film world and advertising, money paves the way for creative possibility. It would seem at times that the sky is the limit but at the blunt end of the market, creative and innovative capabilities are no less present. There is a human tendency to be in complete awe of that which we cannot comprehend. Much computer imaging employs existing conventions of representational modes rather than inquiring into new visual modes, which explore the latent and particular properties of computing space. The word experiential succinctly describes the working approach of those whose work I have shown. It is also a word, which aptly describes an engagement with drawing. Drawing reveals itself as an activity, which is enmeshed within the diversity of visual practice.
So as not to confine myself to the rarefied area of fine art practice I show drawing, which occurs in the workplace, not intended as drawings for the gallery wall, but as drawings that enable work. Drawings were used as a means of distributing sewing patterns until the 1970s, and drawings that were used to draught out patterns for the making of lace during the nineteenth century. Drawing is an integral and indispensable part of the making process - the thought process which pre-empts fabrication.
Most computer-assisted imaging displays regular, recognisable and ultimately replicative attributes, for example in glossy advertisements and on screen. Here virtualisations by Buf/Duran - interior spaces that emulate physical and recognisable substance (Fig 29) and the commonly seen computer manipulation of photographic imagery of the ‘Photoshop’ variety (Fig 30). If we are bound to the gadgetry of computer applications, reliant only upon realistic representation or the soporific collage of photo bites, we shall surely be proceeding along a one-way road of progress or superficial improvement.
When Keir Smith used a perforated steel stencil to allow the natural process of rusting to mark paper underneath (Fig 31), and when Steve Cripps constructed machines that smashed into the walls of the gallery (Fig 32), they were drawing. A fusion of conjecture, material and action. Whether it is unpredictable variables determining the intensity of the chemical reaction or the mechanical carrying out of a set of instructions, both outcomes are removed from the autographic mark.
Antoni Gaudi experimented with three dimensional, structural possibilities when designing Guell Colony Church (Fig 33). In devising an upside-down model of sorts, he effectively shifted his drawing activity from the drawing board into three-dimensional space. Drawing and forming are integrated. Frei Otto allows the very substance of the building to be drawing - the tensile structure of the Munich Stadium (Fig 34) - drawing not as think tank but as drawing embedded within process. The process is not contrived as a means to produce a drawing - rather the drawing is intrinsically part of the forming.
In the computing environment, the emphasis has been on the realism of the object in space - the object being positive and the space negative. Construction of virtual realities are based on the assemblage and placement of objects within a mathematical space. How unlike our real world - no air, pressure, density, resistance, vacuum, fog, cloud or even rain. Students engaged in drawing are aware of factors such as light, refraction, reflection, shadow, heat, cold, vapour, even emotional stasis of the drawer. All are considered in the activity of drawing.
In his performance of ‘The Rope that Binds us makes them Free’, (Fig 35) Nigel Rolfe bound his head in thick sisal twine turning himself into his own sculpture. In parallel I have recently made a video work titled ‘Second Skin - Version III.’ (Fig 36) A circular image - a point of light, a pencil point, live dog, moving fur, projected around a physical room, moving through time, drawing a moving image into a real three dimensional space. This piece stems from work over the past five years, generically titled ‘balls of wool’. I am interested in rethinking the position of the viewer and the viewed. What would it be like to see differently? Rolfe’s work engages the viewer - s/he is on the outside looking in - s/he can only imagine what Rolfe is unable or able to see. Within the virtual environment one can see from the inside out - to see the winding of a ball of wool or even the unwinding of that ball of wool. I am using the computer to do something, which it can do and I cannot. I can move around, by means of a virtual camera, within a virtual space, a room, which I can anticipate and build. I can track the camera as though I was winding a ball of wool. I can record this visual information onto video and project it into a real space. I am interested in human reaction and interaction to different environments. I want to find out how I and others, who enter such an installation, might react spatially. Would I feel disoriented? Would I feel sick?
Drawing has a history which can be traced back through time but where is drawing now, when we find ourselves party to a so-called resurgence. If the word resurgence is defined as a raising from the dead - a reappearance, it suggests the readoption of previous concerns. My emphasis has been on drawing as visual thought and how that might be manifested through reflection, deliberation and speculation in a variety of visual outcomes. My intention has been to demonstrate how the work of many visual practitioners has contributed to where we are now. The electronic realm has come about as a consequence of these musings and conjectures. I hope to have given some indication of the necessity for and relevance of work produced by those exploring potential either through or inherent within drawing.
Acknowledgement of the computer simply as tool exacerbates the problem for artists and designers, suggesting that one make work facilitated by technique alone. Artists have never had any problems using, inventing, or adapting to tools - so why an impasse? Drawing can combat this situation. It decries the superficial adoption of technique and promotes transgression of previous methods, uses of material and reasoning. It can enable genuine exploration of the computing environment. The electronic realm is not the apex of human achievement, simply another rung on the ladder of human curiosity and invention. Our physiological state is, that we are able to view the world as being on the outside looking at the other - hardly surprising then, that we have had an obsession with the object. We accept, through the exploits of physicists, chemists, biologists and others, that this is not the complete picture. The computer allows new and different views of this same world and perhaps there are whole new experiences out there instead of sensational replication. It is the continuance of an experiential and experimental approach to work, one, which acknowledges risk and failure, in an attempt to become conscious of our potential as human beings and maybe beyond, which is signified by the current resurgence of drawing.
Figs 1 and 2, Opus and Upstream
Figs 3 and 4, Outside/inside and Inside/outside
Figs 5 and 6, Morris and De Kooning
Figs 7 and 8, Auerbach and Kidner
Figs 9 and 10, Long and Heizer
Figs 11 and 12, Dibbets and Hesse
Figs 13 and 14, Abramovich and Stelarc
Figs 15 and 16, Smithson and Eames
Figs 17 and 18, Bochner and Kelly
Figs 19 and 20, Piero/Uccello and Celmins
Figs 21 and 22, Mach and Newsome
Figs 23 and 24, Craig Martin and Stelarc
Figs 25 and 26, Held and Craig Martin
Figs 27 and 28, Gins/Arakawa and Hatoum
Figs 29 and 30, Buf/Duran and Photoshop
Figs 31 and 32, Smith and Cripps
Figs 33 and 34, Gaudi and Otto
Figs 35 and 36, Rolfe and Eames
|Useful Links||Back||Send email|