Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Walking the Line in the Context of Drawing Today

Drawing today is characterised by plurality. We see a broad range of practices encompassing diverse approaches, processes, imagery, aims and intentions. Indeed, one of the frequently lauded strengths of drawing is this plurality, its adaptability and ubiquity.
In recent years, innovations in contemporary drawing have come under fire for being mere ‘boundary busting’[1]-  we can probably all call to mind examples of drawings whose raison d’etre is to challenge the definition of what drawing is. The artists in the project stand in contrast to this attitude of innovation for innovation’s sake; for while their drawing is innovative, these are innovations which arise from sustained engagement with the world.  Drawings which ask questions of the world and in negotiating answers develop innovations. 
Essentially our questions about the artists and work we are interested in are about how they produce knowledge.  Or perhaps more precisely, what kind of knowledge can this type of drawing produce?  Again, and a step further, this line of questioning takes us to what, ultimately can we do with this knowledge? Finally, are these ‘utility’ arguments for drawing meaning; is this a special species of ‘applied drawing’ that we are looking at?
Our position isn’t definitional; we are not seeking to establish what drawing is, or seeking to establish a new category with its values, participants and distinctive images.  It’s possible that Walking the Line will need to differentiate to describe distinctive or exclusive approaches, and it may have its ‘manifesto moments’.  If it does it will be one manifesto amongst many and, as Lawrence Alloway expressed in the 1960’s, pluralism is a continuum advancing along a broad front of culture.[2]  Consequently, it is from within an inclusive field of contemporary practices we have noticed a peculiar type of drawing – it is this which is the focus this research project. 
Drawing is a verb, not a noun’, Richard Serra’s well known assertion that drawing is a doing thing rather than a static name is a useful way of appreciating the complexity around making, researching and writing about drawing.  Together drawing practice and research must be doing things and both be on-going, plural, and relatively or simultaneously mobile on many fronts. 
One of things which interest us about this type of drawing is that its characteristics and ethos may be traced back to historical innovations and ideas about drawing- to those of Ruskin or Leonardo for example. However, our intention is not revisionist, to revive drawing from the past, or return to earlier approaches of drawing as a standard for today. Instead, these historical relationships become one of many lenses through which to see and understand possibilities for drawing today. In turn, our enriched understanding of contemporary drawing may come to reflect upon historical knowledge.

[1] Ken Currie, ‘In Defence of Drawing’ reprinted in Drawing Breath ed. By Anita Taylor and Paul Thomas (London: Wimbledon College of Art, 2007), unpaginated.
[2] Nigel Whiteley, Art and Pluralism Lawrence Alloway’s Cultural Criticism (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), p.62.

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