19 February 2016

Extended Drawing - module 8

It's interesting to see, at the start of each module, how the tutor has set up the room. This time, tables with two chairs, and stools at the front.

First up, gathering in front of the screen, on the stools, to find out what's in store: the investigation of truth and non-truth. This week, looking for "truth" in drawing via automatism, a practice used by the surrealists. Lots of information in Mario's introduction to the subject - and good discussion in response to thoughtful questions. There was a feeling in the air of minds being stretched ... or was that just inside my own head? Names mentioned ... Andre Breton (and the surrealists), Mallarme (and symbolism), Freud (and dreams) - cubism, dada - Pessoa's 79 heteronyms, Madge Gill, Henri Michaux, ShaoLan Shueh's Chineasy, Susan Hiller, David Jajajel's asemic writing, Austin Osman Spare (pix here), Unica Zurn, the French-Canadian Automatists, including Jean-Paul Riopelle; Ellsworth Kelly's pine branches, Debbie Locke's collaborative drawing machines.

We sat in pairs at tables and worked in silence, with lights dimmed and glasses off and/or eyes closed, the partner helping by moving the paper if necessary to keep out drawing on the page. Various materials were available. When both had had a turn, up came the lights and we looked at what we'd produced -
Did it feel automatic, or was there some sense of control? For me, an awareness of what my hand was doing ... of wanting to make different sorts of mark, use different materials, different gestures. I was trying to relax and be free ... it's a process of discovery ... but not entirely successfully. I didn't "get a sense of the true you existing in the work", not just then and there.

After that, a chance to work larger, or with different materials, on our own -

 Some people found space on the floor -
 My scribble became a coloured scribble, freely using the chalky pastels on hand -

and smudging them with the white pastel -
 ...layers and layers of colour. Not a good effect overall, but better in detail, using the camera as a viewfinder (such a useful technique) -
We didn't have time to make a cubomanie ... maybe next week ...
Or, why not now?
This started as the photo of my colourful drawing, turned to grayscale, printed, then cut into 5cm squares and glued down randomly. I was neither pleased nor excited by it, but did spend part of an afternoon developing it by adding "automatic" marks here and there, then all over, trying to pull it together in some way. (With a 0.5 felt pen - bad choice??) It felt like a complete waste of time, but at least there was a purpose - to get it pulled together, though that wasn't there at the outset, it developed later, which meant a few areas don't have a place as part of the whole.
Perhaps I was trying to stick too rigorously to what was already there on the paper. Eventually I did feel myself loosening up, but overall I felt like a person who was just doodling, and not very well. As much as I wanted to "go with the flow" and embrace the idea of automatism, it felt like an idiotic thing to do. What reveals itself? ... hmm, I wonder...

I did - and do - feel, though, that there's some way this can be useful to me. Experience shows that the things most struggled with are those that suddenly become possible and even useful, desirable.

During the week I was aware of the "truth" issue and found some relevant serendipity. First, in the Drawing Projects book, words to the effect that a drawing is an approximate revelation of a perceived situation. (So, it's unlikely to be "truthful" as perception has so many shortcomings, oversights, and pitfalls; and then there's the skill and/or intent of trying to reveal it.)

And this account of an essay (by Lucia Berlin) about truth in writing, in developing a fiction.

Week 2 - non-truths, ambiguities, and illusions. Good to see slides of the history of cubomanie and of various illusions. Names mentioned... Gherasim Luca, who invented cubomania; Christopher J Lee, who put the original poster beside the cubomanie; Andre Masson; anamorphosis, eg the skull in Holbein's The Ambassadors; ambiguities like Kaninchen und Ente 1892, All is Vanity 1892, My wife and my mother in law 1915, contour rivalry, figure-ground (a good example of which is Phoebe Morris, Peter and the Wolf) -
 Shigeo Fukuda, Malika Favre, Al Seckel, the impossible triangle (by Penrose father and son, but Oscar Reutersvard had invented it years before), Fanette Guilloud's anamorphic tape installations, Escher of course, and the Kanisza triangle and its inferred edges.

So many possibilities! Rather than excitement, I felt panic - so little time! I quickly decided to cut a grid through several pages of a magazine and rearrange the squares and see what happened.
A convenient grid

Cutting through layers of magazine pages

Using inks - including splatters and blobs - as a basis for collage
(subconsciously making the page work as a whole*)
Working quickly, with occasional glances to see what others might be up to -
Then it was time to go round the room -
Wish I'd done one of these

... or these (which you won't get much idea of; the photo is a prompt to my memory) ...

... but it was Liz's grid - and how she used it for tracing - that was most inspiring
Next day I took the idea of tracing, moving all over the place, and moving the paper as necessary - as Liz had done - and came up with this -
Note the use of the ink splatters!
Since then I've done other collages and tracings, but this post is long enough already (and has taken as long to write as was spent in the classes), so they'll have to wait.

But I'll round off with another useful technique, using a viewfinder - in this case the camera, close up. These are from the automatic drawings -

They might yet find their way into a tracing. But ... how to develop those tracings? They have become a form of automatism in themselves - my mind feels quite empty when I'm doing them.

* Also subconsciously I'm planning a possible quilt with this - using a scattering of the big dark blocks (indigo dyes?) pieced into a light background (off-white damask?), with the smaller brighter pieces either pieced in or appliqued on. Lighter pieces in the dark areas, darker in the light areas ... counterchange ... but none as dark as the blocks or as light as the background - midtones for the small bit. Bright, though! It could become chaotic, so perhaps some further colour restrictions need to be added into my "rules". 
And those little splashes? French knots!

As for the "why fabric, isn't paper easier" question - it would be interesting to see how the method of putting the fabric together differs from using paper, how much more careful the design has to be to make it possible to sew rather than glue. For instance, what would you need to do to inset the lower red piece on the right? How much extra effort would be needed to piece the entire top, rather than use applique? (Lots!) What would you do about the quilting - would those french knots be enough (a variation of tying a quilt?) or would you stitch around each bright little square - perhaps using the stitching that holds the applique as part of the quilting?

(This post is linked to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Fridays)


Olga Norris said...

I really like the tracing you did - it seems that the whole exercise opened your mind to receive the nudge particularly appropriate for you. My immediate reaction to your tracing is that it would make a wonderful outline for a relief print which would add more random marks in the printing - and would perhaps then be sufficient unto itself.
I am really enjoying your reports of your classes. I envy you the mind stretching - it is much harder work to generate on one's own. However, your posts contribute wonderfully, thanks.

Judy Warner said...

I really like parts of that grayscale exercise. Hang in there with your play and let it be just that. I bet in the long run you will find ideas will flow more smoothly even if it all doesn't feel like it is coming together.

Kathleen Loomis said...

Oh my -- so much to think about -- this ought to be four or five different posts! I'm going to try to click on all the links and read them all.

coincidentally I was just looking at some Ellsworth Kelly pieces where he cut up and rearranged black-and-white paintings. same effect as your exercise.

(I like the way "DON'T" turned up in your restructured drawing!)

quiltedfabricart said...

So interesting! Amazing how random scibbles can be manipulated to look good. Even if you don't end up with a masterpiece you learning and feeing yourself.

Teagan said...

Thank you for sharing your process! I get discouraged sometimes thinking everyone makes what they intended automatically, its nice to see the whole picture. Love what you've created. :)