Angela Eames/paper 3
|Home||Link to research section||Link to sales|
Recent publications/papers etc.
Focus on Drawing - National College of Art and Design - Dublin 2002
Drawing Colloquium - Glasgow School of Art 2002
Title of Paper: Where as opposed to what is drawing now?
I am arguing in the last resort, in favour of the sinking of technique to a level of consciousness where it can confront man, for art as revealed truth, not as significant form, and technique as the instrument of its exposition.1
The drawing of this paper has involved the dipping and delving into written texts, visual sorties into both mental image-bank and picture-books and numerous deviations into areas of intriguing as opposed to requisite information. Drawing as both physical and virtual surfing one might say. Drawing as a written composite resulting from a search - as usual. In this case a search to try and discover and question my own concerns and hopefully then in laying down the first electronic marks/pixels/words to be able to contradict them. It has been a series of questions, statements, juxtapositions, threads, appropriations, and eliminations around the question - Where is drawing now?
As I've worked, I've been plagued by the sense that I should say something profound, (i.e. Original) about all this material, that my readers should hear more of my Individual voice, as if somehow the act of making links wasn't enough. It's ironic, but it's strong testimony to the pervasive overvaluation of Originality, which infiltrates the academic realm. Despite these lingering doubts, my juxtapositions of others' texts (for the most part carefully cited, just to add to the irony) highlighted for me what these writers are talking about. When the overvaluation of Originality is seen for the fiction it is, the realm of pastiche and plagiarism becomes a space for endless, fluid play.2
The above fragment of text reflects my own views but in addition as a writer Hyoejin Yoon uses the web to extend his ideas appropriately, letting his reader personalise the information through exploring the possibilities of non-linear reading. Via buttons one can surf through his text or return to the root in a random manner. Meaning becomes relevant to the individual reader.
Figure 1 and Figure 2 3
How might I attempt to define drawing?
Many artists and designers will say that in order to be able to see one must draw, or that the doing of drawing enables seeing. Feeling, thinking, doing and seeing (what has been done as well as what is being done) are intrinsic and central to drawing. If one were to take a metre ruler, calibrated from 0 to 100 centimetres, 99.9 centimetres of that ruler could be considered as drawing and the remaining 0.1 centimetres as the moment when what has been done or the work, becomes finite. Drawing is the means of thinking visually, the to'ing and fro'ing of forming - the means through which one thinks, makes, breaks and then thinks and makes again until the end of the ruler is reached. It is the beginning of work and might sometimes be realised as the end or as a work in itself. As such it is as critical to the future as it has been in the past.
Asked to define drawing (and I’m not sure that drawing has been defined to date) I would have to decline. Not simply avoidance but rather in consideration of the lack of specificity prevalent within the activity itself. I feel, as a practitioner more able to respond to the question – ‘Where (as opposed to what) is drawing now?’ The ‘what’ seems to relate to the summation of a finite activity. I feel more able to comment upon what drawing is ‘not’ but even that presents a minefield of oppositional possibilities - so to be more/less specific/non specific;
Drawing involves touch, trace, probing, failure, continuity, change, exploration, realisation, discourse, irrational, evidence, assimilation, cognition, contentious, encounter, recording, intention, experiential, indeterminate, logical, realising, rigorous, focus, actuality. Although it might be none of these!
Drawing is not on paper although it might be. Drawing is not technique, competence, representation, mark-making, language, aesthetics, depiction, doodle, discreet, facility, gesture, habit, imitation, mechanical, monocular, original, inspired, predicated, sentimental, skill, static, style, talent, artificial. Although it might also be any of these!
The ‘where’ suggests that one might be able through looking to find drawing attributes within visual work when that work is not immediately branded or characterised as something else. A jumper might be described as a drawing - a drawing through space - a linear thread winding its way through three-dimensional space. Perhaps the role of critics/historians is to ascribe the ‘what’ whereas it is more within the responsibility of the artist to detect the ‘where’.
Drawing as visual thinking is a critical activity. Drawing accommodates the coupling of intuitive and accidental behaviour with a rational and planned approach intrinsic to innovation. How else might we recognise potentials beyond our individual and necessarily limited experience. Antoni Gaudi experimented with three dimensional, structural possibilities when designing Guell Colony Church. He devised a model out of strings, from which he suspended small sacks of sand, corresponding to the weight, which the supporting arches and pillars would have to carry. This served as an upside-down model of sorts. A picture of it had only to be turned upside down to get a clear idea of what the final structure would look like. Gaudi effectively transferred his drawing activity from the drawing board into three-dimensional space. Drawing and forming were integrated.
How might I describe my practice?
When asked that incessant question - “What do you do?” - I reply - “I am a drawer”. There were times when I had great difficulty in responding, feeling as I did that I did not belong to a prescribed practice - painter, sculptor, printmaker, film maker, even fine artist. As one who has been using computers for some fifteen years I was often accused of selling out to ‘the other side’ - computers being identified with that ‘other side’, the commercial/graphic design sector. What nonsense! When working with ‘stuff’ in the material world I was involved with trying to realise that which I did not know, see that which I had not seen. Nothing has changed in the intermittent years, I am still pursuing the same track but one could say that, as with an artist such as Jeff Wall, the technology has since caught up.
We now acknowledge the ‘digital’ as commonplace but if I construct a wireframe within a program like 3D Studio Max, what exactly am I doing? I believe that I am drawing. I know that I am not painting, sculpting, printmaking, filming - perhaps I’m not even making - but I am drawing. The experience and knowledge derived from previous practical pursuits in the material world serve to inform my thinking and working procedures (quite often constraining them) but those decisions regarding what to do and what to do next are governed primarily by my experience as a drawer. My projections or conjectures with regard to the intangible stem from an awareness of the tangible and those of the invisible from an awareness of the visible and vice versa.
Figure 3 and Figure 4 4
Awareness of the working realm - materials, properties, constraints, procedures etc., locates and informs the visual practice and can aid the initiation of ideas and the direction of the work. The visual work is the result of a precarious but essential balancing act between knowing and not knowing. Uccello (although it is now believed that this work should be attributed to Piero Della Francesca), in his ‘Chalice drawing was pre-empting wireframe drawing - he was making a huge leap across centuries. In my updated version a wireframe drawing, modelled in 3D Studio, I am reflecting back to Uccello/Piero and also visually referring to the early days of computing. Personal, experiential and experimental endeavour is crucial to my perceptual and conceptual understanding. Drawing allows visual thinking, an engagement with the other and the opportunity to reflect upon the other. Any engagement with computing can be on the basis of genuine exploration of opportunities and possibilities particular and peculiar to that realm as opposed to the imitation of manual technologies. Visual engagement based on an exploration of possibility is preferable to replication. Drawing is a form of visual conjecture that takes place prior to, during and after the activity of doing, whether the activity involves graphite sticks or computers.
How would you talk about the ideas and concerns within your drawing practice?
I am not interested in issues of representation so much as I am concerned with the notion of simulation and simulacrum. Treading an unfamiliar path - familiar territory for a drawer! By this, 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.
The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the merging of the medium and the message (McLuhan) is the first great formula of this new age. There is no longer any medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffuse and diffracted in the real, and it can no longer even be said that the latter is distorted by it,". Thus "we must think of the media as if they were, in outer orbit, a sort of genetic code which controls the mutation of the real into the hyperreal,". Meaning thus implodes -- "this is where simulation begins," .... "The very definition of the real becomes: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction.... At the limit of this process of reproducibility, the real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced. The hyperreal," .... Someone like Baudrillard, would argue that we, as a society, have lost touch with reality. Instead, we're hooked into a simulation of reality, made up of television, the Internet, etc. This new "reality" supplants the real thing. It's like a Jorges Louis Borges map - we feel comfortable in our new simulated world, and feel a little unsettled if we stray away from it from too long.... Simulacra are similar to simulations, but they go one step further. Simulacra are copies of things that no longer have an original (or never had one to begin with). The files and folders on a computer desktop function as copies of objects of which they are the reality. There is no "real" file or document for the symbols to represent. The files that you keep in your computer relate only to themselves. Ideas about simulacra are part of the postmodern notion of worlds without origins and a world without depth, a world of surface. There is no underlying meaning, only an exploration of surfaces.5
Figure 5 6
In the computing environment, the 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 rain. Students and others 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. I am interested in rethinking the position of the viewer and the viewed. What will it be like to see differently? We are all on the outside looking in - we can imagine the unseen but within the virtual environment we can see from the inside, out. In my own work 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 for example, which I can anticipate and build. I can track a camera within this virtual; environment devoid of atmosphere entirely or I might choose to immerse whatever virtual activity within an impossible scenario of conflicting atmospherics - maximum G forces, visibilities on a minus scale and serious flooding, simultaneously perhaps. I can record this visual information onto video and implant it into a real space and then what?
My recent work comprises drawings in time, space, sound or silence, which have a single factor in common. They are constructed (i.e. drawn) within the computing environment. The imagery viewed on video or as printout did not at any time and does not now exist in reality. They are simulacra; copies of things that have no original. They are not simulations of known human perception or observation. The drawings explore the potential and present the visual outcomes of stratagems carried out within the complex and arguably infinite computing environment. The works extend the concept of drawing as visual conjecture toward unseen possibilities. Drawing as imagination, probing and confrontation rather than entertainment, progression and improvement. Wherever there is a tendency for visual decisions and evidence to be predicated by medium or habit, there is a need to persist in engagement in terms of purpose rather than style.
What is new work that is inherently out of sight?
When artists and designers embark on new work the reasons for doing so are various. Work in the main stems from previous work, often dissatisfaction with a piece, or the idea that it might be done differently. The stimuli for new work may come from other sources; everyday reflection, the want to find out what is there, the need to explore possibilities, the desire for play, even a need to dispel boredom. Those working in the design world might have commissions thrust upon them with the added constraints of time and economics. Although formally outcomes may appear visually different, the approach to work is consistent. Both artists and designers have something to do. This having something to do is usually followed by possible ideas as to how to do it and in turn the how to do it is governed by a sense of appropriateness which depends on what is being done. Within this working process chance, accident, strategy, formulation and the inevitable spanner of personal idiosyncrasy sit side by side.
The activity of drawing enables you to focus upon any number of visual issues. 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 engaging with drawing involves high and/or low focus thinking. Drawing requires an approach that is alert, organised and rational in the preparatory sense, an ability to survey the immediate time, space and interruptions and a continual open-mindedness to the circumstance.
David Gelernter wrote that 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 or 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.7
What is new work that is inherently out of sight? How can we recognise that which has not yet been seen? As human beings we assimilate our sensory experiences, we act out a form of simulated existence as part of a complex survival strategy and we intuitively learn how to cope in the world. Exposure to different ways of seeing, or seeing differently, requires risk-taking. As the technology train hurtles on unabated, providing ever faster, ever cheaper and ever easier means of solving problems and producing visual imagery, artists and designers face the very real problem of whether to simply keep up with it or to put themselves in the driving seat. Does form follow function or form follow program? Creative people have no desire to strap themselves to the front of the technology train. They may wish to slow down, get off or at times to travel even faster but they would insist on having the choice of direction. Constraints are inevitable and challenging but acceptance of the computer simply as a more convenient tool encourages the notion that one makes work facilitated by technique alone. Artists have never had problems using, adapting or sometimes even inventing tools as and when the need occurs. The electronic realm is just another step along the path of curiosity and invention - but it is a step, which might allow us to engage with other aspects of space and time. The computer allows us another view of our world and new experiences but it is an experiential and experimental approach to work, an acceptance of the necessity of risk and failure and the subjugation of technique, which will allow those steps to go somewhere.
When questioning, searching within, or commenting upon the nature of the environment via whatever means, you are engaging in the actual and the real and the outcomes are in fact actual and real. The making of a drawing using physical substance, whether that be graphite and paper or sandbags and string, results in an actuality - a drawing. When working within the electronic realm, the absence of substance does not necessarily denote that the results are not real. Visual thought remains a critical factor in the implementation of work. In its capacity to make the invisible, visible, and for three-dimensional simulation, the computer allows for a re-spatialisation of the visual world. This can occur on an individual level, i.e. the relationship between artist or spectator and artwork (whatever form that takes, static, moving, multi-perspectival, or even simulated) or on a collective level, ie. multimedia or media transmission of information or image. The computing environment can augment your ability to perceive the visual world.
Figure 6 8
An artist is supposed to be more than just a maker of decoration and an architect more than just an organiser of building. Past practice, more grandly known as the history of art and architecture, is pressed into service. The notion of great artists or architects serves to bolster the status of current practitioners: they are descendants of gods. In practice, both groups tend towards a craft conception of their activities; just look at the bulk of art and architecture education: much of it is concerned with handing on technical knowledge and unquestioned professional beliefs.... Looking at some of the publications and remembering the public forums around the issue 'art and architecture', the abiding motive for them seems to be the nostalgia: the desire for a return to secure, homogeneous culture. Contributors look back to a time when art and architecture were in some kind of union, and look forward to some coming synthesis when the artist and the architect will again share a common language. The implication is that the diverse and contradictory practice of art and architecture in the twentieth century was a mistake, an arbitrary neglect of the true and the beautiful, a wilful aberration by immature men and women. A new union would be possible if sensible folk could get together.9
The irony of the last sentence is double-edged. Who are the sensible people Andrew Brighton is referring to? By definition, the word ‘sensible’ can mean - having or showing good sense or judgement, or it can mean - having perception, aware. Brighton highlights the determinist, linear sensibility of out time. What that form of ‘getting together’ might be is unknown and dependent upon current as opposed to previous circumstances and needs. The visual conjecture with respect to both arenas (wherein drawing is ingrained) might require discord as much as unity and future twists, turns and development, particularly in the light of technological application, are dependent upon that visual conjecture or ‘drawing’.
Does one have to start with the Etruscans?
Most students starting the BA Drawing programme at Camberwell College of Arts and I have to say, many staff within art schools have an embedded notion of drawing being somehow ‘good for you’ and that there are an essential set of skills which can be traced back through art history and which have to be acquired through learning and practise. A worrying aspect of this line of thought is that with each successive year of students the educational agenda to be ‘learnt’ gets longer. Students have in the past asked me why should they not start with De Kooning for example as opposed to the Etruscans. I couldn’t agree more and I would say further why should the development be necessarily linear. The hanging of the Tate Modern provides a welcome forum for the viewing of work for the student today. Many staff have argued with me that although they would acknowledge drawing to be crucial in its underpinning of visual practice - some kind of support structure to traditionally taught and ‘named’ practices perhaps, there is no necessity for Drawing to be a course in its own right. I would suggest that in climate of postmodern/posthuman crossover, it is those traditional pockets of study that are no longer essential and that a course which embraces the breadth and potential of visual thought is perhaps the only course which should exist! In my experience students engaging in a degree in Drawing, want initially to identify their individual interests and concerns and then to move along their personally appropriate path of exploration and development. It is precisely an acknowledgement of the autonomy of drawing, which attracts in the first place and the impartiality of drawing, which compels them further.
Why might drawing be an essential component of working within modern technologies?
When entering the technological domain we discover that just as in the material world, there are ways of doing, or programs, which enable appropriate modes of working and there are those, which do not. Appropriateness of means and method remain as ever an issue. Visual practice is predicated on the fact that new technologies can and perhaps should be used to discover the undiscovered. Artists and designers have something in common - they advocate a spirit of adventure and have an aim to make technologies work for them. In doing so, they raise issues pertinent to all areas of visual practice, technological development and ultimately drawing as the beginning of visual conjecture.
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. Drawing a two-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface from a three-dimensional reality demands an experiential acknowledgement of both. You are not making a copy or an illusion of three dimensions in two dimensions. Similarly the activity of drawing within the computer does not have to be seen as making an illusion of three dimensions. The computer offers a peculiarly non-material association of mark in the equality of presence and the quality of mark through pixels. Traditional drawing is a physical act whereas drawing on or perhaps into a computer screen could be described as physical but different. Both activities are nonetheless real.
What can drawing contribute?
Drawing promotes individual thought, action and critically, reflection upon that action.
Ask yourself what contribution has drawing made, can drawing make and where drawing might be evident in the present. Visual practitioners in their awareness of both previous and contemporary visual practice are both critical historians and critical observers whereby their personal critiques recognise what has happened, what is happening and what might happen. They aim to develop ways of thinking and working. They aim to offer alternative ways of functioning, which will meet the challenges of future visual practice and by implication, a broader spectrum of thought and action.
One of the most intriguing not to say disturbing pieces of television I have seen recently was a programme screened on a Friday night called ‘This is My Moment’ an opportunity for look-a-likes or natural doppelgangers of well-known celebrities to perform and compete for prizes in front of a television studio filled to bursting with other doppelgangers. A contradiction in terms - maybe. Images of Blade Runner, replicants, mutants and other notions of human transformation pass through my head. Certainly a reflection of the need to be/long in a postmodern apocalypse. Even an athlete competing with other athletes is keen to surpass their competitors as opposed to replicate them.
According to Baudrillard, simulation is: .... the substitution of signs of the real for the real. In hyperreality, signs no longer represent or refer to an external model. They stand for nothing but themselves, and refer only to other signs. They are to some extent distinguishable, in the way the phonemes of language are, by a combinatory of minute binary distinctions. But postmodernism stutters. In the absence of any gravitational pull to ground them, images accelerate and tend to run together. They become interchangeable. Any term can be substituted for any other, utter indetermination. Faced with this homogeneous surface of syntagmatic slippage, we are left speechless. We can only gape in fascination.... Meaning is out of reach and out of sight, but not because it has receded into the distance. It is because the code has been miniaturized. Objects are images, images are signs, signs are information, and information fits on a chip. Everything reduces to a molecular binarism. The generalized digitality of the computerized society. And so we gape.10
Figure 7 11
If this production frightened the life out of me nevertheless the question surfaced - for whom would this programme provide comfort and that yearned-for sense of belonging?
.... resemblance is a beginning, masking the advent of whole new vital dimension. This even applies to mimicry in nature. An insect that mimics a leaf does so not to meld with the vegetable state of its surrounding milieu, but to re-enter the higher realm of predatory animal warfare on a new footing. Mimicry, according to Lacan, is camouflage. It advantage by masking one's life force.12
I have to ask myself can I identify ‘drawing’ in this scenario - where is the drawing? Perhaps through notions of pattern recognition, serial repetition, reproduction, duplication, authorship, copy of model, copy of copy, simulacrum.
The terms copy and model bind us to the world of representation and objective (re)production. A copy, no matter how many times removed, authentic or fake, is defined by the presence or absence of internal, essential relations of resemblance to a model. The simulacrum, on the other hand, bears only an external and deceptive resemblance to a putative model. The process of its production, its inner dynamism, is entirely different from that of its supposed model; its resemblance to it is merely a surface effect, an illusion.13
Even the most ardent proponents (and critics for that matter) of the rarefied activity of life-drawing, would be hard-pushed to dispute that the issues mentioned here are not encompassed and under continual scrutiny even when confined to this well-established practice. Whilst drawing is seeing and experiencing the real and existent, the ability to engage within the technological environment or medium is governed by the level of technology available. Visual programs, which enable or perhaps disable activity or solutions/answers are themselves based on re/presentation of the material world. They ‘simulate’ the material world in the provision of metaphors of forming. The files and folders mentioned earlier as examples of simulacra are indeed beyond the referential in terms of their being signs for encoded activity but in terms of identification with the user they comprise part of the metaphorical desktop. The visual ability to think one’s way through virtuality is dependant upon the very same modus operandi that has been traditionally employed within the drawing activity - not the skill to emulate but the willingness to submit to the unknown. It is all too easy to assume the former mode of working, allowing technology to facilitate through acknowledged ways of working and the computing environment to become merely a vehicle of provision - a facility. The willingness to submit to the unknown is as necessary as it ever was.
Will virtual systems create a level playing field for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, colour, gender, age, education, financial status, or the ability to load and fire semi-automatic weapons?14
Only if there is the willingness to engage.
Is grey the new black ....... or white?
Conventions of drawing white on black or black on white exist within the two-dimensional material world. Within computing space the malleability of the working ‘floor’ as phosphoric light presents a different arena with regard to the use of colour or greyscale. Distinctions of mark are embedded as opposed to applied, when working within the raster environment of Photoshop for example. The relationship of figure/ground is categorically changed. Whilst analogies of matter-orientated working modes are emulated in the program, the medium is inexorably different, challenging our conception of appropriateness. Any one of 16.7 million colours (beyond the capacity of the human eye to interpret difference), can provide a ground into which chromatic changes can be made. Grey might be selected as the neutral ground into which a chromatic shift through manipulation of RGB values (red, green, blue), to white or black, might be achieved.
In my section of the TLTP Seeing Drawing DVD Project undertaken by five colleges including Camberwell College of Arts, I have initiated an interactive drawing arena, which is only appropriate to the digital/electronic arena. The section provides an opportunity to think about and perhaps realise the potential of computing and drawing as opposed to a replication of traditional modes within an alternative medium.
The unexpected, the surprising and the seemingly impossible can still be revealed through drawing. The placing and erasing or embedding and changing of marks or moments of actuality can give form to new visual possibilities, allowing the imagination to project beyond two, three and four dimensions. Visual thought has led us to the electronic realm, which continues to discharge us with responsibility and solicit our attention. Drawing as visual thinking can provide a means of prodding and probing, doing and undoing, glimpsing and finally, maybe, seeing reality/virtuality or reaching the end of that aforementioned ruler. To return finally to the question - where is drawing now - given the willingness to step into and engage with the unknown and an ability to reflect on that engagement, we might at some point in the future see where drawing is now through hindsight.
Figs 1 and 2, Jumper and Gaudi
Figs 3 and 4, Chalice Uccello/Piero and Homage
Fig 5, A. Eames
Fig 6, A.Eames
Fig 7, A. Eames
|Useful Links||Back||Send email|