drawing conclusions 2017-18
Artist In Residence UTas School of Creative Arts

Published in Island 156

it begins with a new pencil   and a new sheet of paper.

the idea is to draw, starting from one corner, and continuing until either the paper or the pencil or my time here runs out.


bottom left corner.

this is a meditation on the nature of time passing, and of an internalised experience of drawing.

it happens to be drawing, but those materials and processes are interchangeable with any other.

the usefulness of having done a drawing is that a drawing is, almost always, immediately recognisable as art.

i am making marks i am doing art.

i am making a series of marks, and then reflecting on them.

i am writing these down.

i am doing an experiment.

if the experiment goes well perhaps i am doing art well.

i am not often inclined to draw, but i think having a drawing practice

that accompanies my sculptural practice is valuable.

(an accompanying drawing practice)

sitting down with the intention of drawing, having no other starting point, no idea of what you are drawing, leaves you with a set of small decisions ahead of you

each compounding to create the whole.

with other work, you must begin with one big decision, one concept.

this kind of drawing is best for when you have no ideas.

mind mimicking the blank sheet of paper,

you have ideas about what you’re doing as you go.

allowing for chance to affect the outcome, or creating an environment in which chance can operate.  there is a tension now between chance and contrivance.  

i am contriving to create moments that might at times be affected by chance.

it is creating work consciously and intuitively. ideas come and associations are made while working through materials.

in this case, one pencil and one piece of paper.

in part i realise what a work is to me some way into making it. what was initially a fleeting image in my mind of a finished work deepens and swells, disparate ideas form ties with each other and the associations are strengthened. a multi-faceted construction of ideas, materials and images all connected to each other.

there are a lot of diagonal lines.

it isn’t true that i have no ideas. no matter how i try and change my work, it always, eventually,

ends up being about the same kind of thing.

a philosophical investigation into art making and experience.

or a trying to figure it out.

the impetus for making art, contained, in this instance, in a small act of drawing.

the impetus for making art from the desire of the artist to understand their place in the world. or to first understand the world, and then to understand their place within it. relationships with people, and places, filtered through a sensibility, and distilled into a substance i can better understand. this substance is the art work.

i am explaining these things to myself as i go.

it resonates with others when they recognise themselves in it.

this trying to understand is a side effect of drawing. beginning a drawing, and then trying to understand why you began it.

or else the drawing is a side effect of trying to understand.

for my part i believe the force of understanding comes from within us, external only in as much as we are physically separate from the work, though we may experience it in an embodied way. in the case of the art work, if other people find meaning in it, in part it is down to them, and yet, as the artist, i designed it that way.

this        drawing  is  becoming   a   drawing of myself    drawing.

chasing the smudges of my hand up the page as it leans on the part of the page that is drawn, and then leans on the part of the page that is blank.

i correct my posture, and absent-mindedly resolve to be a better person

if i set out to do a drawing, i would never consciously make a drawing like this. despite its resemblance to art, it has bad posture, and curls contemptuously off the wall, asserting its object-ness. it presents a completeness, like a well-told joke

(the best jokes are often laced with sadness),

and a stillness that gives it the weight it requires, counter-balancing its posture.

the nature of the lines are dictated by how i am inclined to draw.

colouring in one patch first, necessitates the colouring in of the gaps around it, and so on.

my mother taught me how to shade in little overlapping circles, so you couldn’t see the lines.

i wonder if i ever had a child, would i teach this to them? or would i teach them how to colour in a whole piece of paper and extrapolate all the thoughts that occur to them about life and art from the act, those thoughts that relate to it, or those that explain it.

i’m unsure if this is even what i am doing.

  i might cook soup for dinner again.

there is a requirement to be present in this action, in order to listen to my thoughts.

                      drawing to think.

       a drawing out.

          drawing out thoughts.

                             or drawing conclusions.

an incomplete thought.

i sat down to start    drawing, but was thirsty so had to get up again and have a drink of water. this was disruptive, but i cannot spend all my time drawing.

i don’t spend all my time drawing.

although i am actively working, dust has gathered across the page

and i have to blow it off before continuing

every day i come in, the days are shorter, colder.

this is a drawing done in the days before winter.

days of change.

leaves fall from the trees and collect on the ground before being blown away,

either by the wind, or by men from the council with tools for the purpose.

on days like these, we can see how time passes.

or we can see how time doesn’t pass, but it is only that the world moves.

the world moves away from the sun.

dust is blown off the page again.

although it is colder every day, i don’t think it is as cold as it was last year.

there are things happening in the world beyond the perimeters of this page, important and devastating things, but i cannot draw them.

this is only a frottage of the surface of my desk, the wood grains show through in parts as whole lines, mimicking the wrinkles on my hand holding the pencil.

my other hand, in my lap, or leaning on the desk, sometimes on the drawing.

there were no wrinkles on my hand when my mother taught me how to shade in little  overlapping circles.

this drawing and that exist to me now as one object existing simultaneously at different moments in time. like a portal to the past. the same marks made by different hands, but also by the same hands. different marks made by the same hands, the same hands with different marks on them.

when i paint my fingernails pink, i have my grandmother’s hands.

two hands. on the one hand, it is about nothing.

on the other, it is about perception and the way people experience art,

and all the thoughts and feelings, beauty and madness that exists within us having a chance to resonate while the artist gives them nothing else to think about. it is about myself making art. it is also about you. it is often about you.

the pencil is a hb, the centrist, plainest, and most common outside of this context. the pencil in the office, probably also, the first pencil i used. this drawing might be better if i used a 2b, but i didn’t want to set out to make art from art things. only to make something from something else. or something out of nothing. the use of a hb was unconscious, but probably intended to minimize my influence over this work.

re-enter the tension between contrivance and chance.

i am getting carried away in the detail and the detail and the detail eventually the detail makes a whole this whole: the wider picture framed by the perimeter of the page. an a0 picture.

today i finally reached the other side of the page (this is beginning to read like a log book).

the drawing begins to resemble a mountain range. perhaps it’s all the diagonals. shards of scribble, overlapping, casting shadows.

approaching a drawing sculpturally. an act of absent-minded creation.

only now it is a landscape. a disappearing landscape. the closer it resembles something, the more my thoughts sit within the page instead of outside of it.

i never intended to create an image, but i am getting a sense of what the picture is now. although i can’t see it from here, i am aware that there is a mountain outside. if i went out for a coffee, or to move my car, i would be able to see it. it’s possible this has something to do with it.

it’s not making and making, it’s making and unmaking, unmaking and unpacking.

the space and the materials all contribute to the unmaking and changing of a work, as well as the lingering idea of what it should look like, what art looks like,

and where the materials come from and what space it is in.

hb a0 institution studio desk mountain

continuing this loop of referencing materials, space and concepts born of a single act incorporates an incidental critique of art making and experience, and, as each person brings their own histories to the space, their interpretation of the works are limited only by themselves.

drawing meaning from drawing. or drawing to think. a drawing out. drawing out thoughts. or drawing conclusions.

an incomplete thought.

parts of it emerge like a patchwork quilt

one part added to another part

one and one series of drawings

transparent things

tedious things

i turn the page around and now i am drawing the sky over a mountain, falling and closing in, drawing now towards myself

drawing like the shards of the unnamed black mineral that sits bottled on my desk. i bought it at the tip shop, a material of uselessness.

there’s a self consciousness in beginning again

the drawing looks like bugs i used to find as a child, the ones that disguise themselves as a bundle of sticks. i never find bugs anymore. somebody told me recently that red ladybugs are extinct here, outbred by the yellow and orange kind. i remember red ladybugs as more recent than my childhood.

there is one corner of blank page left, and i am running out of options.

the empty space is disappearing faster than i have been drawing. patches unfolding into loosely the shape of leaves, first defined and then disappeared into the whole.

the last patch of clear sky before the rain. the piece of sky i can see between the top of my window frame, and the roofs of the houses across the street. behind the houses sits the mountain, but i cannot see it through my window. the houses are in the way.

i have caught up to the upside down watermark. at the end of the page.

i have the option now of starting again, drawing over what i have already drawn, or to call it.

it is ultimately up to me. the drawing doesn’t have to end.

the end, and also the beginning of the page.

it is difficult to keep my hands out of the drawing, but it doesn’t matter as there isn’t much empty page to worry about dirtying.

a repeat on a large scale of the details of the process.

filling in patches of blank space.

this is, after all, what i’ve always been doing.

this time, on returning to the drawing, bugs have fallen on the page,

a collection of the small bodies of fruit flies.

it is difficult to write about the ‘end’. the end, and all ends.

all ends like this.

further up the desk from the drawing is the body of another kind of bug, a moth, with powdery white wings, as the white of the last corner of the page

the final corner.

faced with the final corner, my mind wanders.

i am thinking about the day outside the studio. the way the wind skittered across the water in all directions at once.

the way my hair, rarely let down, kept getting in my eyes. soft and dry, it wasn’t annoying.

i feel brave, and move to complete the drawing.

pencil marks like grey sheets of rain. the time we sat on the roof, watching the storm coming towards us like a dark curtain.

slippery with rain, it was harder to get down than it was getting up.

if i had slipped off the roof that day, this drawing would never need to be finished.

the pencil catches the edge of the page, defining the border. i can see again the watermark. it is, after all, only a drawing. slowly drawn out.