Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Michael Craig-Martin and line drawing

In the late 70’s Michael Craig-Martin began to make line drawings of ordinary objects. Over the years these drawings have been refined and developed so that they can be applied to both architectural surfaces as well as operating as stand alone drawings. What is interesting about these drawings is that the 'styleless' nature of them is now seen as a style, and that what were everyday objects in the late 1970s are now seen as objects of a particular moment in time. For instance the cassette in the drawing below now becomes a reminder of an old technology.  He is very articulate about what line drawing means to him, his book 'On Being an Artist' is a very good read and gives a fascinating insight into how he has engaged with the art world over a long period of time, both as an educator and artist. In particular it has an excellent section on line drawing and what it means to him.

‘For these drawings there are no “originals” in the usual sense. In the early days I drew each object in pencil on paper and traced it in fine tape on acetate. I then destroyed the pencil drawings. Since the mid-’90s I have drawn directly on a computer using the mouse as pencil. No hard copy exists unless I print or paint one. In the beginning I intended my drawings to look as styleless as possible, without any hint of my personal intervention, but after making hundreds over the years it became clear that they did have a style, which is now recognisable as my style.’ Michael Craig-Martin

This speeded up video will give you an idea of how he creates his wall drawings using tape.

Michael Craig-Martin: Wall Drawing

 "I thought the objects we value least because they were ubiquitous were actually the most extraordinary." Michael Craig-Martin

There are several important issues that you can take from Craig-Martin’s work. Perhaps the most important is that nothing is boring or ordinary. If you isolate anything from the world it is suddenly a fascinating object. Another issue is ‘style’, Craig-Martin attempted to create ‘style-less’ drawings, however the process of simplification itself led to a ‘style’, perhaps the real lesson here is that ‘style’ comes not by trying to create ‘effect’ but by having a concept and trying to apply it.

The other big issue is about line drawing itself. On the one hand it is the most ‘abstract’ of all drawing approaches and yet it is also a method of drawing that most clearly creates an ‘iconic’ image of the thing represented. It’s very abstraction, clearing away all other visual ‘noise’ and thus getting closer to the essence of what an image can be.
'I try to make images that have the immediate presence we take for granted in objects - a chair, a shoe, a book, a Judd - and compose them like sentences'. Michael Craig-Martin

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