What is Drawing? | project reference and my notes

‘It’s not something we’re usually given to think about: What is it to draw? To make a drawing? To draw some thing, and to do so in some place. John Berger, in an essay in ‘Bento’s Sketchbook’ wrote: ‘We who draw do so not only to make something observed visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.’ What do you think he meant?

The aim of this project is to encourage you to reflect on your current understanding and experience of drawing and to reconsider what drawing might be, as an activity in its own right, as well as what it might be used for.’

‘By starting out from one of the examples listed below we would like you to study and make a drawing from your discoveries.’—from the Project Brief: Albrecht Dürer, The Large Turf (1503); watercolour with body colour on paper | George Seurat, Femmes Avec Deux Filletes (1882-84); conté on paper | Piet Mondrian, Blossoming Apple Tree (1912); oil on canvas | Edvard Munch, Cabbage Field (1915); oil on canvas | Emma Kunz, Work no. 020 (1939); pencil, crayon and oil colour on paper | Mel Bochner, Wrap: Portrait of Eva Hesse (1966); pen & ink on graph paper | Ray Johnson, Nothing (1927-1995) | Mike Parr, 12 Untitled Self Portraits (1990); drypoint on paper | Janine Antoni, Butterfly Kisses (1996-99); Cover Girl Thick Lash mascara on paper | Alison Watt, Phantom (2008); oil on canvas | Joyce Cairns, Conversations with a Kestrel (2018); oil on board

Untitled|two nineteen — Krähe, laß mich endlich Sehn / Treue bis zum Grabe!

As the birds moved around and around on a curtain rail hung between wooden posts, one obstructed another. Not two but many, one after another . .

Silver, white, green, green
Green, silver, green, green, viridian, viridian, purple, purple
Green, grass green, orange, white
Viridian, silver, green, purple
Orange, purple, white, green, green, purple, green, green.

The blackbird tapped at a string with seed-fat hanging from it trying to get it to swing onto the floor of the bird house. It flew off, returned, tried again. I watched something leave its hungry body. The house was in the shadow of a bigger house.

Landfill – Forgetting | project reference and my notes

‘A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.’
— Walter Benjamin

‘The role of forgetting and remembering have changed, from a default of forgetting to one of remembering.
Technology (cheap storage, easy retrieval, global access …) has altered the culture and economy of remembering and ushered in the demise of forgetting. Everything, across generations and time, is now indiscriminately ‘remembered.’ The objects we think with into our past and toward our futures are increasingly dematerialised into digital environments, where, for instance, touch and smell are hard to come by.
But forgetting has been of central importance to our development, as individuals, as societies. It allows us to live in the present and think abstractedly, while if we were unable to forget, we would – as the philosopher E.M. Cioran noted in A Brief History of Decay – ‘be crushed by the weight of our memories.’
Is this happening?
And if so, what effect might this ‘remembering’ be having on us, as individuals, as a society?
How is it changing our social lives, our understanding of family, employment, Time and art?
And what might we learn from the material that we do discard, abandon, throw away and bury as waste? Landfill – that other archive; our material unconscious.

This project asks you to consider ‘the role of forgetting’ in society and make an artwork based on your reflections.’
— from the project brief.

Angel, Still Ugly

The strapline on the back page of the newspaper said, The Last Goodbye.
I was looking.
He was an ugly old man who had got on the train at Stonehaven.
Moving slowly – like the train is now – he gripped the table with both hands and lowered himself into a seat.
He had brittle pubic hairs growing out of the top of his nose, dirty spectacles, grey hair. I could feel the coldness
in his hands.
The previous occupant of the seat had left behind a big empty crisp packet and a travel ticket.
With clenched fists he violently punched these off the table into the seat opposite, clearing space for a newspaper.
And I wondered.
On how many other occasions in his life had he dealt with things
that he didn’t like, things that were in his way, things that he didn’t want to see,
occasions now forgotten,
by punching them into the seat opposite;
out of the room,
out of the ring.





What is colour – without Language? | project reference and notes

‘The title of this project has been adapted from a poem by the French writer Jean Follain.
Follain’s use of language, his sense of the miniature, the modesty of his subjects, and the relationship of his poems to memory have influenced its general outline – A project that asks you to think about colour as the material of art.
‘A small painting of seven apples by Paul Cézanne arrived in England in 1918. It sat in the hedge at the bottom of the farm lane leading up to Charleston, while the economist Maynard Keynes, who had acquired it from the sale of Edgar Degas’s collection in Paris, carried the rest of his luggage up to the house. Duncan Grant ran down to fetch it. From then on at Charleston, where Keynes left the Cézanne for a period, and then in Roger Fry’s studio, where it also lodged for a while, it became the object of intense scrutiny. ‘What can six apples not be?’ Woolf asked, miscounting the apples in her amazement at the attention this small painting attracted. She wanted to understand its power, for as her diary entry records, the apples seemed to get redder and rounder and greener, while the other paintings in the room seemed to recede, to pale into insignificance.’
(Frances Spalding, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision. National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2014.)

By starting out from one of thirty (30) poems/pieces of writing selected for you to study (by John Berger, Charles Baudelaire, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Bowles, Geraldine Connolly, Jean Follain, John Glenday, Geoffrey Hill, Michel Houellebecq, Kathleen Jamie, Jane Kenyon, Hester Knibbe, Michael Longley, Mary Oliver, Francis Ponge, Marion Poschmann, Rainer Marie Rilke, Edith Södergran, Katherine Towers, Natasha Trethewey and Virginia Woolf) we would like you to study the question, what is colour? within the context of a fluid understanding of the landscapes of language and technology, and in particular, the visual and critical languages of fine art … … and make an artwork out of your discoveries, the only stipulation is that it starts out from your response to one of the pieces of writing provided.’

(from ‘What is colour – without Language?’ The third of three first semester Fine Art studio projects; General Foundation in Art & Design, DJCAD, University of Dundee.)


And complementing my reference to comments that Geoffrey Hill made in an interview:

‘In my view, difficult poetry is the most democratic, because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing that they are intelligent human beings. So much of the populist poetry of today treats people as if they were fools.’
And Hill continued …
‘We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most ‘intellectual’ piece of work. Why is it believed that poetry, prose, painting, music should be less than we are? Why does music, why does poetry have to address in simplified terms, when if such simplification were applied to a description of our own inner selves we would find it demeaning? I think art has a right—not an obligation—to be difficult if it wishes.’

… further related arguments may be found in this article by Rebecca Watt – https://www.pnreview.co.uk/cgi-bin/scribe?item_id=10090 – taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January – February 2018.

What is Sculpture? | project reference and notes

‘You must change your life’ was the injunction that the Greek torso issued to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. A torso without a head.
The head – of the Greek God Apollo, severed from its body and lying on one side – is seen elsewhere, held between the hands of a blind man in Jusepe de Ribera’s painting, In Sense of Touch. 
The painting was made in Naples in 1652. The poem composed in Paris and first published in 1918.
Rilke would live in Paris for twelve years, and in 1902 he became the friend, and for a time the secretary, of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. His writing during this time (1907-1908) was not about his own abstract ideas and moods, but instead about actual things outside of himself, a type of poetry he referred to as Dinggedichte (thing poems) – for example, an encounter with a panther in a zoo enclosure; children on a merry-go-round; the broken sculpture of a male figure in the Louvre Museum. The poem, ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’, is ekphrastic – a vivid description of a visual work of art, in this case, a statue without a head, without arms or legs, without genitals – and it asks us to consider why the poet ‘sees it’ as more real, in this, its damaged condition.
Both the photograph of the statue in the Louvre’s collection, and Rilke’s poem, are ‘documents’. And this ‘document’ – in addition to studying the subject of sculpture – is the other subject of this, the second project.

(from ‘What is Sculpture?’ The second of three first semester Fine Art studio projects; General Foundation in Art & Design, DJCAD, University of Dundee.)