Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Drawing Conclusions On The Wall

I mentioned recently that I have taken up drawing again, though I have so far been shy about sharing any examples of my work.  I'm still feeling my way towards what sort of mark-making 61-year-old me wants to make.   Am I an expressive scribbler, a mixed-media man, an advocate of pure line and volume, or perhaps even something I don't have a name for yet?  It's fun, but man do I wish I didn't have to use reading glasses, nowadays, and didn't also suffer from a touch of arthritis in my index finger.

Naturally, I've been looking with interest at what other people are up to these days.  It seems that after decades of neglect by many artists -- who have generally preferred the conceptual approach to anything as hands-on as paper and pencil -- drawing seems to be having a bit of a revival (hey, call me Mr. Zeitgeist...).   Though the conceptualists have inevitably complicated the picture:  "So why shouldn't pouring a cup of tea over a magazine count as drawing?  Do you have a problem with my practice?"

I found a really useful compendium of contemporary approaches to drawing, Walk the Line : the Art of Drawing, compiled by Marc Valli and Ana Ibarra (Laurence King, 2013).  Its 300 or so pages cover the range from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the balance tipping a little towards the latter; the reach:grasp ratio of so many young artists seems truly lamentable to me. *  The urge to have something to say clearly overwhelms the urge to acquire the means to show, not tell.  However, I'm always on the alert for that Hendrix Moment, so I don't rush to judgement (30 seconds or so usually does the trick, though).

But, to save you the trouble of finding a copy, you can get a decent sense of the wild variety of "practice" and competence out there by checking out the Drawing Room's Drawing Biennial 2015.  All the works are on A4 paper, and donated by invited artists as a fund-raiser, which may explain the variable standard, but there are some BIG NAMES in there (Kapoor, Emin, Creed, etc.), and you can bid to buy any of the works on show until 30th April (minimum bid £250).  Inexplicably, nearly all of the few items I rated highly are so far marked "no bid".  Not entirely incidentally, did you know Tracey Emin is now Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy?  No, seriously.  I really, really don't know what to make of that.  Is it them, or is it me?  If it's me, I am beyond beyond help.

Of course, the best part of this renewed enthusiasm is browsing the online catalogues of art materials suppliers, and getting up to speed with all the new pencils (yes, there are new pencils), erasers (did you know you can get battery-driven erasers?), papers, sketchbooks, pencil cases...  It's all way cheaper than camera gear, and somehow more enticing, and much less like researching a new toaster.  But then I've always been a fool for stationery porn.

Woman reading, by José Sobral de Almada Negreiros

* "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what's a heaven for?" (Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto -- one of the greatest poems by one of the greatest poets, and quite relevant to this post).


Martyn Cornell said...

… as opposed to stationary porn, which is what the naked women at the Windmill Theatre famously had to be.

eeyorn said...

Hi Mike, Long time no 'see'. Very glad to hear you've taken up pencil drawing again. Our mutual friend Zouk showed me the sketch you did of him all those years ago and I thought it was rather good.

Sorry to hear about the arthritis. I'm told that organic cider vinegar can help

Mike C. said...

Hi eeyorn, yes, I used to spend a lot of time drawing people who had rendered themselves immobile, one way or another. Exhaustion, I think, in that particular case.

The glasses almost bother me more -- can't see a thing clearly for ages when I take them off after a lengthy session of close work...