Thursday, 24 September 2015

Collaborative Drawing: A Proposal

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber: A Royal Art Lodge members collaboration

In 2004 the magazine ‘D is for Drawing’ published a pilot issue. The then editor Yane Calovski set out the areas of drawing the magazine would cover and one of them was at the time termed, ‘democratic expression’ stating that ‘in the primacy of the practice lies the context for drawing as a successful collaborative practice.’ About half way through the magazine was an essay by the curator Alex Baker called ‘Odd Fellows’, on a collaborative exhibition that had been held at the Morris Gallery in Pennsylvania in 2003. This essay introduced me to two things. The first was the work of Marcel Dzama, a Canadian artist who works in the field of visual narrative and the second was an introduction to an alternative approach to collaborative working.

Marcel Dzama

Baker set out the premise for the ‘Odd Fellows’ exhibition as follows, ‘bring together artists who share a similar aesthetic, an affinity for drawing and a track record of collaboration and let them do what they do best and see what happens.’
The two other artists selected for the exhibition besides Dzama were Michael Dumontier, and Andrew Jeffery Wright. Dzama and Dumontier had already worked together as members of the Royal Art Lodge, based in Winnipeg and Wright was a member of Philadelphia’s ‘Space 1026’ another collective.
Andrew Jeffery Wright

I was intrigued to see how these collectives worked and how they could benefit the artists involved, so I decided to look at the work of the Royal Art Lodge in more detail. It was founded in 1996.The majority of the work produced was drawing, which often incorporated text. The group would meet once a week on an evening, at least three of the members would then contribute to drawings made in a spontaneous response to a previous artist’s work, and then when it was decided that an image was finished it would be date stamped. It seemed as if by working as a collective they were becoming far more successful than working as individuals. The work had a freshness and originality that could only be maintained by a group of people stimulating each other’s imagination and testing its limits. It was interesting to hear what they had to say about working in collaboration and one of the things that intrigued me was that they formed the group as a response to living in Winnipeg. The city had no track record of being an ‘art’ centre and by forming a group they felt both protected from the philistines they believed themselves to be surrounded by and found it easier to make work in an environment of mutual support. The fact that the work developed a unique style because of this collaborative way of working seemed secondary, just a result of the process. What they also found though, was because there were several people with different communication skills, those more quiet practitioners, would find themselves promoted by those who were very good at organizing shows and getting work out there. The group had solved one of those perpetual conundrums, the artists who just quietly get on with work are usually awful at self promotion, and artists that have a very good set of communication skills, are often out there communicating rather than getting on with work in the studio. 
Leeds now has several groups that work collaboratively and I think these are of real benefit to the city. Try and get to see what is going on above Wharf Chambers on Wharf Street, both the artists’ collaboratives ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ and ‘Leeds Weirdo Club’ are based there.

Collaboration can also be something done at a distance and can be a good way of making contacts with other artists and seeing yourself as a ‘global’ practitioner.

The artist Gabriela Boiangiu has recently initiated a project called ‘Drawing Dialogue’. The idea for this began when she was working in Dalga near Craiova in Romania. While she was there a left behind drawing was ‘finished’ by an artist who found it, decided it was interesting and responded to it by making a drawing in dialogue with what was already there. This intrigued her in particular because the new drawing seemed to say something about two very different things at the same time. Gabriela is though also interested in location, and the fact that an entirely visual dialogue could be conducted at a distance. The other issue about location is that the one you are in is always specific. A bedroom in Leeds is totally different to a studio in Paris. 

This is the proposal:

Stage one
Send Gabriela your postal address via email to as a registration of your interest.

Stage two
Gabriela will pair up registered artists by location, looking to find interesting geographical links.

Stage three
You are contacted by email with the postal address of an artist you have been paired with.

Stage four
You make 6 A2 size unfinished drawings that respond in some way to your specific location and post them to your artist and then wait for 6 drawings to come to you. (Drawing can include collage or colour, be inventive)  

Stage five
After they arrive, you respond to your 6 artist’s drawings and ‘finish’ them.

Stage six
You send the 6 finished drawings to Gabriela who will send an address to post them to nearer the time.

Once you have registered your interest, you will have two months to complete the 6 drawings and send them in the post to your paired artist. Gabriela will pair people up as the project advances.
Final deadline for registering an interest in participation: 30 March 2016

There is no funding for this project, so this might cost around £20 all together with paper, materials and tubes sent in the post world wide. 

Remember if you do register an interest you will need a fixed postal address and will have to be committed to the project. As a student, if you were unsure of where you might be living over the summer, you could always use your home address or have something delivered to you at college.
Gabriela’s project was initially intended for existing professional artists, and she has extended the invitation to include students, this of course is a risk to the project, as it is vital that all participants take full responsibility to ensure that no work is lost or drawings become marooned without a responder. If you do decide to participate in this, please make sure I don’t get egg on my face for suggesting the project would be of interest to students. Participation would of course be useful for your PPP modules.

It is also proposed that if the project is successful there will be an exhibition of the work done. As to where, that could be in Romania or elsewhere in Europe. 

See also:

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