Concept of Drawing as a Medium
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Published: Fri, 04 May 2018
This essay will address the subject of drawing. The main starting point will be the ideas of John Berger on Drawing. These ideas can be summed up into three main concepts: Drawing as observation, drawing as memory and drawing as expressing ideas. Although drawing from observation was of fundamental importance in the past today we see more and more an engagement of drawing with memory and as expression of ideas. This doesn’t mean that people don’t deal with observational drawing, it means that its practice as it was in the past has become obsolete in the sense of drawing is a starting point as study for a final painting. The introduction of photography and the end of old art academies accelerated this change. This essay will deal mainly with drawing as memory and drawing as ideas. It will first look at artists who use drawing in a more conventional way for ideas and memory. Then it will move on to consider artists who challenge the medium itself (pencil, paper and so on) to push the idea of drawing to express drawing as memory and drawing as observation. The essay will discuss the distinctions between painting, sculpture and performance as a way of discovering the possibilities of drawing and also to discuss the new expectations of drawing as a medium.
The art practice of drawing in the late twentieth century has achieved the status of art in its own right. The approach to drawing is also changing in ways that reflect trends within the art world at large. Many artworks in association with drawing challenge traditional boundaries among media. Secondly, there is self-consciousness about the nature of art and what is involved in the creation of art. I see drawing now at a primarily end of its tradition it can be argued that it no longer stands as drawing to represent. It seems that we are on the verge of anther paradigm shift in drawing, now reflecting an altered view of its nature as a skilled activity, what we now perceive as drawing has been obliterated. By this I mean change for instance, Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning, an example of change by removal of the drawing. Rauschenberg proved to be going backwards in drawing traditions. The drawing was there and now it is not. This was a kind of rebellion going against traditions, although the drawing may have gone backwards drawing was to go forwards i.e., modernism. The process of change will be discussed.
Drawing is discovery
John Berger, Berger on drawing, had enabled me to begin research and analyse in depth both the physical and the metaphysical act of drawing. What we draw is not only the subject observed but also what we already know about it. In fact the past experience of the subject affects the way we draw it. Berger further raise’s the point that will be discussed in this essay; the differences between the actions of drawing and painting. According to Berger the audience can identify with the subject illustrated when confronted with a painting. I will attempt to establish a dialogue on the possibilities of drawing with reference to artistic process. Firstly I will analyse the work of Jackson Pollock as a link to contemporary practice. I have also found it important to research literary theory on the grounds of the process of mark making and the social connotations it has created. The reading of ‘Berger on drawing’ helped me to begin thinking about some key terms such as drawing as memory, drawing as a way to express or show forth ideas and drawing as observation. It was useful to reflect on the idea of truth in drawing. How truthful can we be when we draw? Do we draw what we see or what we know? Can we overcome our set knowledge of things? I will try to find out more about these issues studying the work of other artists.
Artists such as Jackson Pollock, CY Twombly, Susan Collis, Louise Bourgeois and Yves Klein whom will be discussed in this essay distinguish their mark making to be somewhat unknown and less predictable. Their works all would free all ‘external impurities’. This essay will examine a process of where drawing stands to date in relation to the past.
It seems that drawing is everything it is not just the stimulators of the pencil it is in fact the motif and creation of exploring possibilities within the concept. I want to question that without these familiarities then what is known, as drawing could never have happened. Drawing is a continuous action, commonly known as the before of something. Now drawing is the beginning and the end of concepts. Drawing, when perceived as truth or good is the act of line. This is the common factor that persuades all subject matter to fall in the same category as writing, in the relation to ‘text and image’. Conversely, bad drawing is lining by the means of lines, a fact lamentably patent in things as widely divergent. This point permits me to repeat that drawing specifically means to visualize ideas by means of lines.
‘Drawing is discovery; drawing is a way of seeing what is hiding under the surface’. If the artist observes what is in front of him then “dissects in his minds eye” this demonstrates that the artist relies on memory and past observations to draw the subject before him rather than simply examining what lies before him. What we draw is not only the subject observed but must also be what we already know about it. It is the difference between the actions of drawing and painting that need to be explored further, for instance in abstract expressionism the line between subject and artist is subtle in distinction whereas Yves Klein paints with a figure, which will expose the difference in this relation.
Drawing into painting chapter One (a discussion with chosen material)and chance
There are distinctions between drawing and painting. It seems this became irretrievably blurred when Jackson Pollock started to paint with ‘line’ in the late 1940’S. Bernice rose has stated in the writings of his work that, perhaps, then it would be more precise to say that there is no real dividing line between painting and drawing in his work. Perhaps there is no divide between painting and drawing? The same is being made, the mark or as discussed the ‘line’ is only been made larger and the feeling is now more intense. Pollock erased the distinctions then pertaining between drawings as a discipline. Referring to Cy Twombly cycles and seasons, reading paragraph, ‘coincidence’ where Shiff talks about the pencil line as ‘something that is happening’, this means that the line is not there to describe or configure things with a narrative aim, i.e. The line is not meant to represent objects belonging to the world. The line is not linked to the act of seeing with Pollock. The line is linked to the act of investigation and drawing as idea and memory. As Pollock would push the boundaries between drawing and painting thus drawing becomes painting and vice versa. Therefore drawing loses its dependence on painting. Twombly would repeat what Pollock had started. Their work both suggests internal feelings and relate in a much deeper way to merely observation. From memory they would represent their emotions going against the conventions of traditional drawing.
The line represents and describes feelings and emotions, which seems a constant flux of things that can happen at the same time. Using Twombly as a reference once again, what appears really interesting to me is the constant change in both of their works: lines are constantly erased, changed, redrawn and re-erased. Furthermore it seems to me that the past and the present are a constant dialogue. As Pollock immediately pours the paint medium onto the canvas the expression is different. The raw emotional expression allowed the drawing to become much more complex and indeed most energetic.
Now, the conventional sense in his paintings is that they generally neutralize the distinction between figure and ground, a factor closely allied with the theory of the all-over.
Because the image evinces no definite form but only a compact, restless texture that appears to continually advance and recede and allows the eye no point of rest, is banal.It remained, however, for Pollock to move from this to a full recognition of pictorial identity of drawing and painting. Furthermore, in his work the effort to bring painted effects into balance with those obtainable in drawings vanishes as both materials of ink and oiled pigment would operate from the same overall conception. – The conception that would see the blank paper and the indrawn canvas as comparable visual fields.
The aura of drawing surrounding the act of painting almost denies any difference. Looking at Pollock’s earlier works contains numerous indicators of the great significance that Picasso’s work held for Pollock. Looking again at drawing as memory or past knowledge Picasso arouses the interest with themes of sex, beauty and young woman but also reference to the old masters in his work. In the words of Jeffery Hoffeld Picasso displays a “panorama of works from the history of his own art’. The Title links in with Pollock’s idea of drawing as an element of memory but also through drawing as past experiences or past knowledge of a specific subject. Significance in style and development evokes the condition of drawing. The intensity of Pollock’s Paintings had clearly evolved through his ‘act of drawing’, drawing from an idea in his head, creates this impulsive ‘drawing performance’i.e the body moves with every drip and every mark to be made, as though the artist would walk with the drawing he would become part of the work.
This drawing is enriched with energy and feeling that could be connected into painting almost immediately. The line scratches through the figures, the impulsive brush over of marks, and gradually discovers beneath the network of strokes a circular shadow that seems to hover in the pictorial space and yet create depth. ‘The beholder’ has a sense of a hallucination. Walter Benjamin has suggested that when a drawing entirely uses or covers its supporting ground it can no longer be called a drawing. This can be added to define the characteristics of the overworked nature in his work.
This definition to me seems unfair to say it is that act of drawing that relates to figure and ground what becomes of the image is unknown. If we extend the list of artists that have used a similar approach to painting and drawing that like wise experimental dripping, such as Susan Collis an artist who also experiments with accidental drips, attaches to the technique as such. Collis’ work would seem like careless splashes and stains upon the surface, however with careful inspection these marks would heighten the idea to mislead the viewer as these are counterfeit marks playing with our reactions and our understanding with mark making. For instance, Susan Collis, No. 2(In series), 2004, red glitter and self adhesive Vinyl are an example of the process of replacing the original mark with her own.
‘To live is to leave traces’
This misleading conception that their may have never been an object or a sheet of paper there, is an argument to raise the point that drawing has been extended it has worked its way of the surface and onto a new. Furthermore, Collis works with marks left by things, the incidental and transient and lending their permanence. No matter what point we might eventually select the fundamental function of Collis work allows us to rethink past experiences in Art history and the change within art concepts. Subject is defined with false conceptions playing on the idea of what is and was may not be reality. Referring back to what Berger has said; drawing from memory , this can relate with the work of Susan Collis as the traces are of objects that where once there she has celebrated the idea of memory, drawing from her memory as a way to discover the past in relation to the present. If confronted by something that has no form, no language, or no place, a familiar analogue steps in; we use one thing to describe another.When the artist has no words to describe something drawing can define these lost words both the real and the unreal in visual terms.
‘Gestures of freedom’
For instance, CY Twombly pushes the limits of drawing and painting with words; it is very hard to classify his work either as painting or drawing. ‘Illustrious and Unknown’ is what Degas aspired to be, and what Cy Twombly has become. The boundary between drawing and painting becomes blurred into his practice as an artist. Playing on the tension between drawing and painting, Twombly was able to question and redefine what drawing is or what it can be. For instance this challenge to drawing can be seen in his experiments to drawing in the dark. In this way he denies the old principle of drawing that is drawing from observation since the act of looking is invalidated in darkness. This can question; how can the values of drawings be recognized as having reflected changes in the material conditions and technology of drawing?The condition of materials being as much unknown in the dark as his mark analysis’s an exciting process with discovering his material. With these examples there is a change within how art can be made; Art can be made of anything firmly established, as they would work with a range of materials simultaneously.
The dictionary definition of drawing suggests that it is inextricably linked with line. It’s clear that drawing and painting both exist simarily in the same worlds, what I distinguish between both of them is the order of similar motifs. These artists discussed so far all relate to drawing as memory and drawing as ideas. After the breakdown of modernism, artist became less concerned with any specific properties with their chosen medium, instead selecting the medium for its compatibility with their particular thesis or proposition.
There is and order to maximise the formal potential of their chosen material. We only have to study the work of Marlene Dumas to gain an understanding of the relationship drawing has to painting. Drawing is a vital part of Marlene Dumas’ oeuvre; by drawing with the line tools of painting her works on paper and the oil paintings echo each other. This is an opportunity to once again ‘blow up’ the image as said. In this case drawing is a way of getting to understand the image, ‘I use second hand images and first hand emotions’. Her paintings differ from her contemporaries who during the 1980s revisited the figure in neo-expressionist work that favoured intoxicating colour. Dumas uses paint as a subversive, anti- conventional means of expression and the figure as a vehicle for achieving these ends. The image is created with the feeling of expressing ideas. She is an artist who works with memory and ideas to work out a dialogue with mark making and story telling. Her paintings become drawings and her drawings become paintings. These paintings make similar marks to a single ‘line’ in the association with drawing. It is not drawing of an outline as the single brushstrokes acts as a drawing and a painting at the same time. Her materials that she uses obscure new possibilities and meaning – the paint, the lines, the ink the drawing’Thus demonstrating that the line is of importance in both relationships of painting and drawing. The pre-knowledge of her feelings, memories, ideas and associations with the image revert back to the impulsive line.
Her direct approach shows the power of the image, which is informed by the immediate gesture of the drawing. The tension that has seemingly been created in the image, we can recognise what is depicted and yet we are not entirely sure about its meaning. As the viewer we are compelled by the poetic nature in movements throughout the image. Other important key terms for the possibilities of drawing are: chance and the relationship child -like/childish drawing. There is an element of chance and randomness in Dumas work, also referring back to Twombly’s drawings he too works with the same ideas of chance. As for the relationship child like/childish, Twombly’s drawings fall into the first category. In fact as much as one tries to regain the innocent eye of the child one will never succeed because he/she is not a child anymore. In a sense this reminder me of Picasso’s mission in art as well, i.e. to regain playfulness in the act of drawing. In fact a child is able to create without the concern and the clichés the adult artist is concerned with. It is the coloured pencil drawings of Cy Twombly that the line wonders off back and forth in the distance charming the viewer as the marks turn discreet.
We can also see this parallel shift from drawing possibilities with materials into painting in the works of Louise Hopkins. Hopkins work hovers on the boundary between drawing and painting. She is and artist whom describes she will ‘paint’ rather than being a specified ‘painter’. Hopkins delicate approach rejects the traditions to ‘picture making’. The result is certainly a drawing in purely technical terms, but at the same time it may represent the drastic function of line, her process of change and use of line is meticulously, one stroke at a time. She never starts with a blank canvas. That fear of being confronted with a problem before the image becomes part of the context. For example, in Untitled (the of the) 2002 Hopkins has taken a broadsheet newspaper and drawn over every single key word and image, leaving behind only the connecting words.The words then become isolated and immediately transformed into a new context. This wonderful image has the feeling of a night sky with nothing but stars connect with. However maintains its aim with undeniable pattern, rhythm and form.
Hopkins ground has been inked out; leaving behind its signifiers, the notes, which are there, but the song has been interrupted with this ‘blocking’ out technique, which seems a repetitive process. ‘White black black white’ explains in its title the process of repetition; Hopkins repeats her actions on the surface developing its contrasts and rhythm. This process has created a different kind of rhythm, played out but the white circles and lines framing the musical notation. This seemingly repetitive action is merely Hopkins aesthetic decision to highlight specific points within the page and thereby compose her personal and original tune. This method appears once said painting and drawing in reverse. The existing material and images are systematically covered up. What is interesting in this work is the idea of a memory the surface is a memory, and is yet to be vanished. The more ink that is added the less information she maintains of its originality. Once again this process of change relates to drawing as ideas and drawing as memory, Hopkins time consuming change to the image represents the processes within drawing. As disused in Hopkins work there is congruence here with Robert Rauschenberg drawing ‘Erased de Kooning’, 1953. Here the drawing has been removed as part of the progression of drawing.
There is a clear conceptual starting point here with both artists. Once again this relates to memory. The initial image has been completely removed; however it is still obvious of its existence. Drawings are often created and removed by the lack of success in the drawing. This process of change is clear. The existence of the drawing has shifted from being obvious to then becoming unsure. From the title of the work we can’t help but imagine what was. In relation to Hopkins work both artists are ‘drawing’ attention to what they are taken away, creating possibilities for stereotypical images. There is significance in drawing then to painting or to be known in some sense the painting is once again the drawing. Although we would not understand that this was once a drawing, the title allows an understanding -Text and Image. The text and image represent a personal commentary on concerns that shape much recent art.
Drawing into Sculpture chapter Two’ memories’
‘Drawings is analytical but its also expressive in its own right, it has duty to bear witness, nit simply by making a representation of something, but taking things apart and reassembling in a way that makes new connections, it is entirely experimental’- Antony Gormley
This chapter will discuss sculpture and drawing as a way to discover ideas. Joseph Beuys would have had ‘false conceptions running through his mind if he hadn’t made drawings’Drawing in this case would relate to drawing as expressing ideas. Drawing in these key terms would exist differently in real space than a sketched or painted one.
“With the situation of postmodernism, practice is not defined in relation to the given medium-sculpture- but rather in relation to the logical operations on a set of cultural terms for which any medium -photography, books, lines on wall, mirrors, or sculpture itself might be used. Thus the field provides both for an expanded but finite set of related positions for a given artist to occupy and explore”
The sculptural work is physically present and the space it exists in identical with real space. Drawing and painting for example tell stories, stories from the artist and stories that we are allowed to fabricate. Whether reality and fiction are allowed to be classified drawing does however extend into those dream dimensions that seem unattainable for sculpture.The drawing as known is not dedicated to any kind of medium, after the breakdown of modernism it seemed that artist became less concerned with the properties of a specific medium. Indeed artist would go against convention. As Stuart Morgan comments on Louise Bourgeois work,
“For an artist with no fixed style or material or medium, only the rule seems to apply and that there are no rules. No rules at least, which cannot be broken”.
Despite all gloomy prognoses of the end of freehand drawing, the strengths of drawing- being able to develop, test, and vary and idea with the greatest possible freedom and with an individual touch- have yet been obtained. When I think of Auguste Rodin this prognosis allows me to point out that Rodin thus falls into another category outlined by Berger, in this case drawing from observation and not memory. Rodin’s important synthesis defined the importance of the body in order to bring out purity. The artist’s drawing fall under different categories: drawings as preparations for sculptures; drawings as observational exercises per se and drawings from imagination. His approach to drawing as a sculpture, in his black drawings is visible in Rodin use of three dimensionality achieved by the use of chiaroscuro. It is interesting to find Rodin an artist from a traditional period within art, however Rodin felt it was necessary to go back to observation as his drawings became unknown. ‘ I realised my drawings where too divorced from reality, I started all over again, and worked from my life models’. To summarise Rodin used drawing to work out his sculptures using observations, the artist that I will now discuss differ in terms of their practice as it seems fair to say that now drawing is used as an excursion away from reality. This past observation looks at the similarities in which contemporary artist’s such as Rachael Whiteread that used drawing as a way to form her compositions and as a tool of expressing the object/structure with all of its possibilities. These drawings would initially start as plans, and without these plans ‘false conceptions’ of the work would appear apparent. Whiteread draws with a sculptures mind, for she follows that sense peculiar to making wood or stone sculptures.
‘The drawing is seen as a field as co-extensive with real space, no longer subject to the illusion of an object marked off from the rest of the world’.
The space of illusionism can change and connect with the space within the world, in doing so it loses its objective and would become more subjective and accessible only to the individuals raw perception. Furthermore, drawing dedicates itself to the space within. The importance of drawing within the space is a crucial process whiteread would have, by redraw the entire space to understand and refine her ideas. For instance, if we look at Floor Study, 1994, ink correction fluid on paper, 46x34cm
This wonderful drawing evokes such movement and repetition that can be designed in the sculptures she makes. In relation to such work Louise Bourgeois who uses her drawings as ways of sketching forth ideas. Her memories are the inspiration as she draws sense of her childhood from memory this way of drawing is not systematically correct as there is no end to the line. It was only a matter of time before drawing could be viewed as an opportunity and opportunity to develop the traditions and stick by the conventions in only a symbolic sense. Artists would now discover the imagination as they moved without restraints between media. The Insomnia Drawings, by Louise Bourgeois are a series of two hundred and twenty drawings that contain major themes in her work. Very important in these Insomnia Drawings is the link between drawing and words. The artist expressed her ideas about childhood fears and memories via drawing. Drawing became the channel to exorcise her fears. In my opinion her drawings are described mainly from a psychoanalytical point of view. Bronfen, The insomnia Drawings suggests that the artist’s drawings can be divided into two main categories: on one hand abstract and geometric on the other figurative and realistic.Marie- Laurie Bernadac elucidates that ‘ the abstract drawings come from a deep need to achieve peace, rest and sleep, they relate to unconscious memories’ whereas the realistic drawings represent the conquest of negative memory, the need to erase and get rid of..’I found these distinctions that Marie-Laure draws between realistic and abstract drawings interesting, However in my opinion the drawings that is described as ‘realistic’ could not be described as such in the conventional sense. I see her drawings as more of a dreamt reality. In this sense the act of Bourgeois drawings are successful in expressing her ideas, for instance the work ‘femme maison’, where the link between the female body and the house is expressed in a simple and effective way. If we look closely as though we were discovering the secret poetry within Twombly’s paintings, Bourgeois uses words which are generally used to express ideas; in her drawings words become drawings themselves. Furthermore the use of words as an aesthetic element with excitement functions to challenge the separation of written word and visual language. In fact the artist expresses them as a whole. Words are also used to represent the banality of everyday.In other words, every real artist, by means of lines compels us to recognise what has been drawn this is the spirit of the subject. Close to Bourgeois subject would undoubtedly be Tracy Emin, her work also makes reference to the feminine and sublime. Tracy Emin returns to drawing as the primary means of expressing her abject state of mind and body. Though she employs a vast array of media such as film, sculpture and performance, it is however drawing that satisfies her confessional practice with a constant presence within her practise (. i.e.). The ‘line’ takes control over the way she makes marks; with thread she can sew the line and engage with the same familiarities that the line has within drawing.
‘The difference between drawing and a picture is that in the latter the subject is worked out for us to look at; the former I can imagine so many things which are only suggested.’
The possibilities of drawing fall back to its original tradition; there is a constant flux of ideas that of which deal with the process of change and randomness. Jan Albers for instance, works in a constant hover between reality and phantasm between figuration and abstract. His interest in spiritualism and imagery reveal the intensity of his artistic research and practice.
In this example the exploding ‘lines’ of colour create a shield covering the figure which defines the structure of the drawing as repetitive mark making with use of the pencil. Often his drawings become three dimensional; the drawings step out into our reality and also are part of Albers reality. The radiating lines extend the drawings hung on the wall; his work deplores the change in drawing and is an infinite example of what drawing can become or what drawing has become. Drawing to me is far greater than being such of a secondary nature; it is in fact primary Sometimes leading to the discovery of another.
Progression with their chosen material’s
Joseph Beuys for instance, his drawing can be compared to most recent works within contemporary art such as Monika Grzymala. The drawing is an exercise far removed from perfection often their drawings are much obvious where there drawing began and what sequence the overlapping steps where executed. Furthermore these artists both deal with Time and Energy. Beuys’ drawings share a complexity of line yet the basic materials used to create the line defines a greater similarity. There lines are erratic and confusing to look at; Beuys’ drawings investigate his ideas using his memories to make a mark. Grzymala works with tape as her tool too make a mark on a surface.
‘Line is a point taken for a walk’
There is a fearful energy to Monika Grzymala’s drawing installations: layer upon layer of black lines scrawling up the gallery walls. They have a similar intensity to Beuys spontaneous suggestions of form. Beuys’ per formative actions served to widen the possibilities for what was considered art. I am defining the themes of change and progression; anything and everything has become possible.
Drawing and performance ‘ the body’ chapter three
This chapter will discuss, drawing in relation to performance within the conceptual art world. I will use artist such as Paul McCarthy, Rebecca Horn and Ives Klein as a way of comparing and evaluating the ‘extreme’ ways in which these artists would create drawings but not in the traditional sense. These artists would go against their traditions and explore possibilities of finding a new way of drawing, idea art that reinforce the connections with figure and ground and the physical relation that they have engaged with. If we look at the work of Keith Herring it is clear to identify the fusion of post modern theory that, activist practise and the appropriation of the idea of site specific drawing (performance).The growing eclecticism of styles in the 1980’s gave artists the freedom to appropriate style and form from other disciplines such as architectural, fashion, and scientific illustration, as well as popular culture.At this time particular artist began to champion drawing again, originally seen as the eccentrics within art, and then gradually acknowledged as important individuals. It can be said that drawing for these artist could be the only method that allowed them to fully express their thoughts, ideas and emotions.For instance Rebecca Horn is a performance artist who creates site specific installations, a sculpture that also makes films whose values of drawing derive from this process of her experimentation. These following examinations will portray the artistic style and energy, motifs and aesthetic strategies in which reflect the importance of drawing and demonstrate why these drawings should be accorded far greater importance than they have been in all her previous exhibitions and publications.Even in the momentum of drawing Rebecca Horn fuses conceptual thinking with emotional and per formative procedure. For instance, her Pencil Mask from 1972 (image), considers these aspects offering a more empathetic demonstration of this approach.
Rebecca Horn challenges the drawing and the making of the drawing proves a highly concentrated labour. The head mask consisting of a lattice of vertical and horizontal straps cross.Systematically the actions are prepared to measure spontaneous expression. It can be
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