Texts on Drawing

Posted on 15th December 2012

Drawing is commenced by the movement of the wrist and hand, somehow an image is born from the chaos of mark making with ink. I often superimpose and blot out an image with white paint, only to reform and regenerate it once the white out is dry. Drawing is like alchemy for me, a process of subtle and often violent transmutation. Visually I am dependent upon accidents and chance occurrences, chemical reactions of ink with water and paint, spectacular bleeds, a certain visceral corporeality, a simulacrum of the prehistoric without being derivative or ‘copying’. It can take days for me to find the right moment to draw. I am looking at previous drawings in an attempt to accumulate energy and power before picking up the brush and starting all over again. Drawings are never finished  products for me and are non formulaic. I accept the mistakes, drips and stains which occur because I am not striving for any true sense of resolve or perfection. That process is anathema to my trajectory. I am working with psychic transference and not with premeditated imagery. If a drawing becomes a series of animal or bird forms it is merely because I am preoccupied with those on that particular event. Every drawing is a haptic event in that it evolves quickly and is unconcerned with what happens once it has been made.’

Drawing is the potential of psychic externalisation, a voluble whisper in time, its the summation of a flawed and cathartic vision. When I see the crayon wobbling and screeching across the paper’s surface I am sensing a kind of  monstrous and bloody birth, as it wanders back and forth, to and fro, it mimics and charts the chronicle of my life’s experiences in a series of lines and superimposed markings that resemble a dense morass of scribbles or ‘banter’. I call this the ‘macaroni effect’ – a term possibly coined in the 1970’s by  American archaeologist, Alexander Marshack, in an attempt to explain palaeolithic finger markings in clay passageway links in  the Ice Age caves of the Dordogne. Unconscious doodling is akin to automatism in that the marks generated are initially unpremeditated or known. I inhabit the sensation of mark making as if falling into a happenstance choreography of changes, a beastial balletic romp for amputee dolls. When the ‘scribble’ begins to resemble something: a head, foot, hand,  ear – I am apt to develop it into a representative image that’s either human or animal (or therianthropic) by context. Whilst drawing the creature I am thinking myself, no, feeling myself, becoming  an animal. At no time am I aware of imitation. I do not think to myself: now you must make this look like a ‘real’ prehistoric image. The drawing dictates itself to me. Like ectoplasmic discharge it happens outside of my body. The image becomes and eats itself. What I have created I often obliterate with successive layers or ‘stratum’ of crayon embedding it in forgotten history of rampant dreams about scree and tumbling. This effectively ‘mutates’ the image. Here, all potentialities are preposterous and an animal may sprout 8 legs and 2 heads, it may die and be reborn, expand and contract like a swollen cadaver in a pit of brackish meltwater, becoming the reek of skeletal memory in bubbling decay. The drawing is a living entity with a life force of its own making. I am merely the hooded and veined conduit through which all this flows.’

Thinking around the drawings and the purpose they serve, which is invariably non commercial, and almost entirely installational and ephemeral, I am considering what role they play in the overall scheme of a performance. They are neither supporting imagery or studies derived from objects on display in the performance. Perhaps their function is much more mysterious and enigmatic? I am weary about trivialising their function or making a brief summary, but believe it is something akin to animating the objects and painting them into a metaphysical journey of transformation (through paint which is visceral and creates a tactile landscape of metamorphosis) and also about imbuing objects with tremendous significance and enhanced ‘reality’. Strangely, the drawings are made with paint, seldom with crayons, during the performance. This reflects a visceral preoccupation with paint as matter. It guarantees a raw and atavistic image will be ‘born’ during the flow of the performance. The link with  prehistoric cave art is very potent. I am thinking about George Bataille’s descriptions about Lascaux.

Outside of a performance the drawings function as souvenirs of memory. Psychic snapshots. Inventories of fragmented stories. Examinations of cyclical change. They are also another way of inhabiting the objects with creative imagination.

Drawing is a kind of performance, a dance, an un-mouthed verse, a poem without words. There is an affinity with the art of children and those who have swallowed the primordial in creative gulps and given birth to an original utterance. I think of fragments when I draw. Fragments to me are like chunks of time distilled in the moment by the act of drawing which is tension and release. A good drawing is a vehicle for mini-catharsis. I am a collector of signs, symbols, insignia. People often ask me what my drawings are ‘about’ and I point them back into the unchronicled annals of prehistory, to the curious and sloping grid like formations in cave art, to the painted pebbles of Mas d’Azil, to spot paintings of the Aboriginal dreamtime, and the rock art petroglyphs of  North America. Somewhere, amidst these signs my trajectory is unravelling itself like an umbilicus linking me to enticement. I have an obsession with stacking and objects piled up in impossibly toppling towers. I am ‘at home’ with the concept of the heap or the hillock of my own making. The more precarious and unstable the pile, the greater my thrill at being able to retrieve a much yearned for (seemingly lost) book. The prospect of an avalanche happening on a daily basis is an imminent possibility for me. I have to work carefully and stealthily around this chaos to avoid inertia and giving up my soul to the new fangled goggled screen. One invariably accumulates merely in order to lose everything again. This seems to be the basis of much of human experience and endurance in life. Much of the suffering in this life is related to accumulation and loss. Its the same in a drawing. You win some, but lose many.