Friday, 3 March 2017

'People will think I can't draw'

I quite regularly have a little conversation with myself as I make my work. It goes something like this:

A. 'But look how wonky that line/hand/leg is!'

B. 'I know, that just seems to be what happens when you don't draw first in pencil... when you just draw in a kind of free, unthinking way, in response to an idea or an image...'

A. 'Well, you could practice, so that when you draw free like that with a pen your line would be more accurate'

B. 'You just don't get it, do you? I've done loads of drawing 'practice'. I can make something very accurate if I want to. But I've never wanted that kind of drawing. It seems pointless to me. Of course it's what people who look, and perhaps people who don't draw, love. They're culturally conditioned to be impressed with factual accuracy in drawing, they can't help themselves. It's probably them I'm thinking about as another wonky line comes out.

A. 'But why do you think of them, who cares?

B. 'Now you're talking. The minute I think about them, I just step in front of that thought with another one, which says. Oh for fuck's sake! Why on earth would you want to make a technically impressive accurate-in-some-way drawing? Millions of people already do that. Millions of people have spent years improving their hand/eye coordination until they can do that just perfectly.

As 21st century culture we can do accuracy, we can do sophistication, we can do cleverness. We go on doing it, over and over again, and it's technically and aesthetically satisfying to us, to do, and to see. But the question for me, and it's only for me, is what's the point of that? Another pleasing, accurate image. It still impresses me when it's done by others. But as a maker of images, that bores me.

I'm interested in images not as cultural markers of a dedication to cleverness, but as expressions of human experience. What happens when the human hand picks up a stick and goes free, in response to an idea, a dream or a body-shaking fear? What can images be as expressions available to anyone, with  or without years of technical practice? It's something quite contrary in me, that, despite 'being able to draw' a lot of what I make suggests that 'I can't'.

It's something to do with that thing in classical Indian traditions about images expressing life-force, breath - the line or image as an expression of something living, experiential. For me that's also about wonkiness and imperfection; and also about the message potentially encoded in a symbol or a visual idea which leaves the image open to interpretation by the viewer, rather than simply feeling wowed (and often alienated from the world of creativity) by reproductive accuracy.

I sometimes think about offering workshops that would provide this opportunity for anyone at all to work free with symbols and imagination; for the sheer joy of the sensation of making a pen move through ink, or of making a field of colour.  I'd like to find a way to take away ordinary people's fear of working with definite, symbolic imagery. So that instead of saying, 'oh, I don't know how to draw an eye' and feeling depressed at the lack of accuracy in their marks (people think accuracy is gift or talent, but it's not, anyone can learn to draw...), they would be able to dive into the world of their lived, embodied experience and create out of that without fear. '


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