Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Heidegger on the significance of drawing

There has been a long ongoing debate concerning the respective validity of art and science as ways of knowing. C. P. Snow called this the ‘two cultures’ divide and stated that the division between scientific understanding and the humanities was highly problematic.
My own problem with trying to equate art with science has been how to articulate what ‘knowledge’ is for an artist. For scientists knowledge has to be measurable, any form of truth has to have some form of correspondence in ‘nature’ or ‘reality’. In the social sciences it feels as if everything is located in what I would call ‘propositional’ truths and over the last 40 years of teaching I have seen an influx of social science theory come into the art educational field to support a growing theoretical umbrella that has been constructed around art and its processes. But what sort of ‘knowing’ am I involved in as an artist? I don't think of myself as having to prove anything. I make art out of some sort of personal necessity that has as much to do with hands that need to be busy as a mind that needs to think about what is going on. 

I’m also very aware that many of my peers are now involved with PhD study and that the college I work for is now entering a new phase, one that will see far more emphasis on research. From what I have seen, practice based research in the PhD area seems to still hold scientific or propositional knowledge as paradigms against which art practice should be measured. The idea that art practice should be grounded in theory is central to most BA Fine Art curricula and there is an almost tacit agreement that this is vital to a student’s holistic awareness of their developing art practice.

Making or drawing for me opens out an understanding as it is done. It’s not an illustration of a concept about the world, it is a type of knowledge that arrives. However I would argue that this is in parallel with the type of knowledge that arrives when I am in and experience the world itself. I’m often amazed at what arrives out of my mouth when I speak, as Yates said when asked about his poetry, ‘I made it out of a mouthful of air’. Images arrive out of doing something, and then afterwards you begin to think about what they might be about. But how can this be written about?

Heidegger put it this way, ‘…it becomes manifest only through the work, because it lies originally in the work.’ Tom McGuirk's paper ‘Heidegger’s Rift: The Epistemological Significance of Drawing’ available to download at: https://www.materialthinking.org/sites/default/files/papers/TomMcGuirk.pdf 
provides an interesting starting point in terms of how you might begin to think about these issues.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Louise Lawler: Modern Art Oxford

Louise Lawler

I have mentioned Louise Lawler’s work before in reference to ‘tracing’. She is in a very good exhibition in Oxford at the moment;

KALEIDOSCOPE: The Vanished Reality - Modern Art Oxford - until 31 December 2016

If you are interested in that interface between drawing and photography Lawler’s work is very interesting, especially if you are also thinking of how the use of vector graphic packages can extend the way you think about scale.

Over the last 30 years, Louise Lawler has been making photographs that depict views of objects and artworks in their everyday working environments, shifting the emphasis from the subject itself to vantage points, framing devices and the modes of distribution that affect the reception of an artwork. Lawler is showing a group of ‘tracings’. Traced directly from her photographs, and made in collaboration with the artist and children’s book illustrator Jon Buller, the ‘tracings’ are black-and-white line drawings that are converted to a vector graphic and printed on a vinyl that is adhered directly to the wall. Each edition exists as an adaptable digital file that can be printed at any size. The largest work in the show is Pollock and Tureen (traced) (1984 / 2013), a ‘tracing’ of Lawler’s photograph Pollock and Tureen from 1984. The original work is a medium-sized photograph, just under a metre wide, of a decorative piece of porcelain placed on a shelf beneath the expressive splatters of a Pollock painting. Pollock and Tureen (traced) has been enlarged to almost ten metres to occupy a substantial section of one of the gallery walls. At this scale, many of the lines in the vector drawing start to behave less predictably, often taking on a form of their own when viewed up close. Viewed from afar, the picture again coheres into a recognisable image. Each ‘tracing’ becomes both a representation of a previous artwork by Lawler and a wall based installation in a particular space.
The fine art use of what used to be ‘graphic design’ techniques is becoming more and more prevalent and these techniques are tailor made for enlarging work to different sizes in order to respond to the changes in scale needed when moving an idea between different sites.
So if you are near Oxford over Xmas why not pop in for a look?

Exhibition view

See also this earlier post.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Deanna Petherbridge at the Whitworth

The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester is hosting a solo show of pen and ink drawings from across Deanna Petherbridge’s 45-year career.
For those of you interested in artists that have drawing at the centre of their practice this is a must see show. I’m particularly interested as like myself, she always uses pen and ink to draw with.

See Petherbridge talking about her work here

Petherbridge in her studio

This text (below) is pasted directly from the Whitworth website:
Since the 1960s, Deanna Petherbridge has pioneered critical thinking on drawing and its place in art and architecture.
Travelling extensively through Europe, India, the Middle East and Far East, her detailed monochrome drawings are inspired by diverse landscapes, cities and cultures: from mathematical patterns of Islamic design, to rustic Umbrian dwellings and Manchester’s industrial cast-iron structures. Detailed geometric studies or free inventions in brush and wash, her distinctive works deal with the impact of colonialism, industrialisation and warfare. Her passionate condemnation of present conflicts is expressed in the 2016 triptych The Destruction of the City of Homs.
This exhibition brings together over 40 works from across her career, including the Manchester Suite a collection of drawings made during her six-month residency at Manchester Art Gallery in 1982. Her studies of the city’s Victorian architecture during its first wave of regeneration in the 1980s led to a consideration of the resonance of history in cities, places and landscapes, a central theme of the exhibition.
From 1995-2001 Petherbridge was Professor of Drawing at the Royal College of Art where she set up the Centre for Drawing Research, the first doctoral programme in drawing in the UK. She has curated numerous exhibitions including The Primacy of Drawing: An Artist’s View in 1991, which led to the publication of her acclaimed book The Primacy of Drawing: Histories and Theories of Practice in 2010.
This exhibition coincides with the publication of a major new monograph, Deanna Petherbridge: Drawing and Dialogue, by Circa Press available from December 2016 in our bookshop.
Exhibition open: 2 December 2016 – 4 June 2017

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pop expressionist surrealism

Daniel Martin Diaz

Coming from a generation of artists that grew up with Modernism it is still sometimes hard to accept the world of post-post Modernism. I become more and more aware of new/old art movements, forged out of different combinations of what has gone before. Minimalist Expressionism, Conceptual Pop, Post Industrial Pointalism, New Abstract Symbolists and in this case Pop Expressionist Surrealism. Every movement comes with a pre-packaged history, in this case everything from Bruegel and Bosch to Warhol and Basquiat.  
For me this is the ultimate in consumer culture, a sort of pick and mix shop, whereby you simply put various ingredients together and there you have it, whether this is an exotic smoothie or a new painting. I ought to hate it, I was brought up to look for authenticity and the hard won image, but it now feels to me that this type of work is in fact more reflective of where we culturally are than any other. If art is to be seen as a commodity then it ought to be made in the same way all other commodities are. In a time of maximum consumer choice, the more a consumer can pick and mix the various elements (in this case the artist is him or herself the consumer as well) the better.  When I look at this sort of work I also feel the awful weight of dense theoretical contexts lifted and art making revealed for what it is, a type of shameless enjoyment and entertainment. No more and no less. 

Gary Panter

However within the mix of the artists that are seen as belonging to this new Pop expressionist surrealism movement are some of the people that I have followed for several years and I have seen these artists as people that have developed 'hard won' imagery and have a unique take on the world. It may just be that what is happening is that the worlds of 'popular' or as it used to be termed 'low' culture and 'high' or 'elite' culture have now become totally mixed. All cultures are both popular and unique to whoever engages with them. When I talk to people about music, they seem to enjoy the Beatles as much as Beethoven, and Steve Reich as much as Dizzee Rascal. 
The individual is now the key mover. You don't need to be qualified to make choices, lists of the best music, art, films etc. pervade the web, it seems that everyone is happy to let others know of their choices for these things, and then they just need to validate those choices by getting others to 'like' them. However we tend to 'like' what we already know, or which confirms our world view. Trust our instincts or rely on reason? I get the sense that we are moving into a time of making decisions based on emotional gut reaction, whether this is good or bad will remain to be seen, whatever the outcome the old order of Modernism has gone and the codes of aesthetic measurement that went alongside it are now outdated as well. New codes, ones that acknowledge plagiarism and appropriation over authenticity and formal invention will need to be learnt. But learnt by who? I suspect if you think you need to think about these things you are already 'past it'. Academia rages about plagiarism but people sitting on computers and fingering their mobiles world wide simply cut and paste and get on with their lives. 

Here is a nice easy primer/manifesto for Pop expressionist surrealism.