O n  B i g  D r a w i n g s

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       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, my earliest memories are of me, as a child drawing and exploring how different materials make marks.  I think I was naturally attracted to the medium but did not seriously pursue it in its own right until fairly recently. 

       What do you make of the traditional idea of 'mastery', which despite a lot of innovation, continues to have an on-going association with drawing. 

The definition for Mastery is interesting - to have full command or understanding of a subject; outstanding expertise; the power of command; control; victory or superiority. Personally I do not think any of these definitions apply to any aspect of my practice especially drawing.  I always feel I am still learning, responding to and embracing the energy, which, is created by the medium I am using and the marks created during the creation of any artwork but especially drawing.  

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

Specifically thinking about drawing, I do consider the act of mark making as a conversation, it is a conversation primarily with myself, to help me understand something.  Through the drawing I always hope to create a visual space, which has enough room for audiences to bring their own questions, interpretations, memories and values. So in this respect a good drawing is always about finding new potential. Julie Mehretu (amongst others) talks about the third space when making.  This is a space, which unfolds during the act of making, from this emerges a new understanding or view.  I begin a drawing as I begin a walk, it is a discovery, a journey; the journey is participatory between myself, the location of the drawing and the world around me.

On the flip side a bad drawing for me is one, which offers no new insight or understanding to the problem I have posed. 

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

Drawing in its own right is quite a new discovery for me; it overlaps my print practice and weaves its way through different media and approaches. Process shifts and changes depending on the work and so although it is surely present I am not always fully aware of it when drawing in the same way as I would be in print for example. 

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

My drawings are often fairly large scale and mostly not on paper but in situ on a gallery wall.  They have a strong participatory element; the creation is a performance, which responds to the structure of the space. It is important to me that the drawings are immersive and physical.  They require audiences to move and explore the drawings in a way that can only happen with enlarged scale.  

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

Through the drawing I always hope to create a visual space, which has enough room for audiences to bring their own questions, interpretations, memories and values. So in this respect the drawing will always depend on audiences participating to find new potential, but that potential is different for everyone depending on how much they offer and invest in the work. 

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

I think small intimate drawings can be extremely powerful.  Stillness and quiet conversation is just as important as dynamic immersive conversation. I do not necessarily think they are more personal but they are communicating on a different level. All can be art. 

       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?

I am aware that both Graffiti and Manga cultures are very popular with certain groups of our students. Technology and communication cultures have shifted how we see the world, for younger generations the excitement of technological devices and digital possibilities are not so marked as they have grown up in a world where these things are commonplace. For them maybe the excitement comes from the rediscovery of materials and making.  Traditional skills and understanding are now being applied alongside digital tools.

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

"Drawing is the artist's most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality."
Edgar Degas 

Drawing is a personal documentation of the event of creation.  

       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'? 

I believe drawing is just as much about the absence of line as it is about lines and gestures. 

It is about the space created which allows new possibilities to lie within.

 ‘a line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you on to see’  John Berger (2013)  

       Asian drawings are known to celebrate a notion of 'emptiness'. Do you seek 'emptiness' in your work? 

I do not think my drawings seek emptiness, however, they do require space and room in order to connect with audiences.  They very much rely on an exchange of memories and experiences and for this to happen I believe there needs to be room.

       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? 

I think this is the same answer as above, my drawings are a very personal reflection of a journey but this is not the complete journey.  My drawings are a conversation primarily with myself, to help me understand something.  Through the drawing I always hope to create a visual space, which has enough room for audiences to bring their own questions, interpretations, memories and values. So in this respect it always about finding new potential, but that potential is different for everyone depending on how much they offer and invest in the work. 

       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? 

In the UK I think this is also the case, children are taught the theories and ‘the correct’ way to see and draw items around them.  Sadly in our current education system there is little room or time for connecting creative thought with mark making.  From my own experience of watching my children enter school happy to explore materials and expression and within a few months being reluctant to make anything creative for fear of ‘doing it wrong’, I believe the whole approach to teaching art needs to shift.  There needs to be a move away from rewarding artworks of any discipline more value if they meet traditional representational criteria.  Value needs to be nurtured in order to build confidence to explore the world around us from different often conflicting perspectives. Drawing is the perfect tool for this as it allows you to express different views in a quick and immediate way and at the same time these responses can be made with minimal resources and materials. 

        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? 

This is a really interesting question; there are both practical and technical adjustments that have had to be made by everyone. Personally, on a practical level, I was simultaneously separated from my place of work, colleagues and studio.  Exhibitions were postponed or cancelled, public engagement events cancelled and a confirmed residency was put back to 2022 almost overnight. This meant funding, income and opportunities disappeared or were delayed. 

On a positive note I found that the physical shift to working from my home created a new headspace and perspective. I had to prioritize the work I could do given the space available at home and also re-evaluate what was possible in terms of equipment, or lack of it, in order keep making.  I realized quite quickly that my writing and drawing were becoming more closely linked during this time as I the demands on my time were allowed to shift.  I was able to read, walk and draw in the same day allowing an extended but natural reflection process to take place.  

The restrictions of travel had created a need to re-evaluate the places of engagement and I think shifted the timescale of those engagements. I revisited spaces and location close to and around my home with a new recognition I think.  I became more attentive to the extra time, which lock down afforded all of us and I think I began measuring this through my walking.  The physical world we could explore became smaller at this time but I was thinking about how we consider the world through multi-sensory engagements creating a pause in normal structures in which we could consider place. Technology did allow me continue travelling and in terms of Way Finding, the world suddenly had the potential to be explored as never before. 

So I began thinking about how my drawing could be used to understand this and it has certainly shifted my practice and understanding from different perspectives. 

My current drawings are reflecting on the many conflicting perspectives tied up in the landscapes I have revisited.  Through the repetition of drawing and monotypes I have created a series of conversations, responding to emotional sensations as well as physical memory of the place. I heard an interesting discussion talking about the truthfulness of touch, which really resonated with me. Humans trust touch to give them access to reality and this comes from a feeling that we have of being active when we explore through touch.  During lock down our sense of exploring was removed, touch was described as being dampened.  Much of my last few years work has been about exploring connections to place and materials through touch, it is this sense which grounds us, connects us to the outside world from a direct perspective.   

So at this time I have resorted to the most touch sensory method of working available to me, to draw. 

I have embraced and enjoyed the freedom to work without restrictions of process. I used the daily repetition of drawing to structure my day; interestingly the spaces and spacing of the images on the paper feel as important as the marks themselves.  They helped to ground me when the rest of the world was unsettled, there was a real need to draw each day.