O n  B i g  D r a w i n g s

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Jeanine Riedl  

     When did you start drawing? Were you naturally attracted to this medium, or is this a more recent concern and engagement?

I have always drawn, as far back as I can recall! The immediacy of this very intuitive act and the gratification of an instant mark is what makes drawing so ubiquitous, accessible and fresh. This is what excites me about drawing.

       What do you make of the traditional idea of 'mastery', which despite a lot of innovation, continues to have an ongoing association with drawing?

Mastery and skill are both a bit odd but important concepts to understanding the history of art and also contemporary art. I prefer the term skill. It is pretty straight forward as it suggests that a skillful individual can draw well, or rather, realistically. Mastery, however, suggests that a person not only draws with skill but also makes powerful work that has impact.

I don’t always trust the people or trends that would assign the latter idea a stamp of approval. All this aside, I have deep respect for anyone who can draw with skill and precision. That said, if an artist relies on just skill while making, I get bored quickly.

       What is a good drawing? What is a bad drawing?

Ouch, that’s a hard one! I think almost any mark made with enthusiasm, sincerity, seriousness, or with a sense of play, is a good one.

       How important is a notion of 'process' in your drawing practice?

Process is important to me, but I do not want it to be of any consequence or consideration to my audience. I think the drawings should speak for themselves.

       The main theme of our project is 'OnBigDrawings'. What do you make of big drawings / or small drawings, and why does it matter?

Both large scale works’ and smaller intimate drawing gestures have a beauty to them. When I draw, the action essentially proceeds from a small intuitive response, much like a sketch, to one that is bold and deliberate, yet simple. Retaining the freshness of this intuitive gesture is very important, especially as the scale increases. Often my drawings resonate a sense of deliberate and determined mark-making, which is countered by a sense of play and experimentation.

Thus for me, the back and forth between smaller and larger drawings is a large part of my process that allows for this dance between the planned and unplanned.

       What kind of relationship do you want your work to have with its audience?

It’s really up to them! I make the work and they can experience it how they wish. Anytime my works can keep my audience engaged and wondering without giving straight forward cues that generate didactic responses, I am happy!

My work is often described as ‘deceptively simple’. At first glance it may appear straight forward but on closer observation you notice other nuances within the compositions of a series, such as subtle shifts in color, value and texture, and linear perspective measurements that don’t quite line up. I aim to make perfect distortions!

       What do you make of small, intimate drawings, sketchbook pages, beermat sketches, and scribbles. Are these sheets more 'personal' or can they be art?

These are precious. I like seeing these from other artists as they reveal more about their thinking and physical process than the final work. Are these art? Perhaps! A lot of it would depend on if the artist would want to present them as such.

       The current student generation is hugely influenced by graffiti and Manga culture, as well as a desire to represent things in more classical ways. How do you relate to this trend?

While Manga and graffiti are both dynamic and beautiful and have shaped so much of our contemporary culture, its tiring to see so many younger folks blindly mimicking them. As an educator, I see this a lot, and it is tiring and boring.

       How would you define the fundamental differences between painting and drawing? (A quote: 'A drawing is a painting made with less paint', ... Henry Matisse).

 Wet and dry? I don’t know how to respond to this since the line (pun intended!) has become more and more blurry to me. I personally use paint in my drawings but still feel more comfortable referring to them as drawings, or in some cases ‘works on panel.’
Painting has a rich and more defined history and set of cannons to it. Drawing is a bit more loose and open to interpretation, so I’d rather be in this D league!

       In 2010/2011 MOMA in New York staged its biggest drawing exhibition of the 20th century, and it was called 'On Line'. Do you think drawing is necessarily just about 'lines'?

Not at all! Think of all the amazing drawings that embrace mark-making, rendering and flatness.

Asian drawings are known to celebrate a notion of 'emptiness'. Do you seek 'emptiness' in your work?
Emptiness is powerful. The void creates a space for rest and contemplation in my work while also generating an appetite to see more. Unlike the western concept of ‘'Horror Vacui’, I lean more towards welcoming this emptiness.

       Traditional drawing is a more intimate and 'personal' artform, yet a lot of contemporary art practice seeks a more social and participatory dimension. How is this reflected in your projects and drawings?
It is not. The only participation occurs when my viewers observer the work or when someone helps with its framing or installation.

       Drawing is often treated as a very technical medium in art education (especially in US art schools). Do you think there could be other ways to teach drawing?

At the early stages of ones art education, it is important that students learn to observe and accurately draw what they see through ‘sighting and measuring’, and an understanding and execution of rendering and mark-making. Once they have grasped this, then the can and should do whatever they want. This is my teaching philosophy.

       One question foremost on my mind, was: how do the artists respond to the Covid-19 crisis, and do you think the new situation has an impact on your creative practice, your exhibitions and projects, and the nature of work being affected by working from home for extended periods of time? Perhaps artists start making smaller scale, more intimate works, made from simpler and easily accessible materials?

Since not everyone can access their studio easily, many artists have converted domestic spaces into studios. I had to do that for a short time but am now fortunate enough to be able to work in my studio in Vancouver, WA. Here I can work on a larger scale and be messy without worry.

I had several shows and site-based installations lined up to occur from March through December 2020 that are now indefinitely postponed. 

While this is all very sad, it is completely understandable. It has pushed me to make work without thinking about the pressure of a show or audience. Perhaps no one will ever see the series of drawings I am working on beside maybe a digital image of it. I guess that’s just fine!

Conceptually, I tried to embrace the repetition and monotony of the days (especially during the lockdown) by making drawings of the exact same building over and over and over again. And then more! 

Permutations of a single idea, by making slight shifts in composition, color, value and texture, is now the core query of my practice.


From Jeanine

As I was looking at your work, which is so beautiful, I began to think about the concept of place. How a place—spot or location, or even a position on paper—is given greater meaning or significance through the simplest addition of color, line, shape and form. These colors, lines, and shapes take up space and become identifiable, remaining in a position—somewhere. For instance, while I see the salt desert in India as a landscape, it becomes a place, a distinct location, with the introduction of scaffolding, A Pink Scaffold in the Rann.  It achieves greater meaning and attention and a sense of specific location through the presence of scaffolding. Architects build upon landscapes and create locations that the greater public, as well as other artists attach meaning and location to, such as 432 Park Avenue in New York City. 

Would you say your drawings and structures are similar to what architects do –– in pursuit of purpose and claiming a space, and making space habitable  –– or are you mimicking (subverting?) the architect’s pursuit, by artistic means in order to make us question if ‘space’, or ‘any space’ can ever be owned or claimed by anyone? And something like Covid truly shows us how transitory things are. 

This is a very observant and good question  and had me rethinking what I thought I felt strongly about in the past, and that is a desire to subvert perfection.

Till a few years ago when planning an installation, I’d look for environments with an unusual history. Often I found sites that appeared overly slick and responded by subverting this perfection. The work (at the time) would either be pure intervention, or a noninvasive dialogue with the location. Occasionally they became autonomous and self-contained, assigning the site to its past.

Most recently though, while working on installations, or individual drawings within projects, I prefer straddling the space between mimicking and questioning structures and spaces, and in other instances simply appreciating them for what they are. The mimicry is almost always meant to be endearing and not an attack.