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? 

When I was a kid I was more interested in making things. I was fascinated with cameras as objects and also in the magic of photography so I was interested in trying to build a camera. 

My exposure to drawing was through illustrations and cartoons.

On pool night, to keep me occupied while the adults had a little fun, my dad would sit a cereal box in front of me and tell me to draw/copy what was on it.

It wasn’t magical for me. 

On the other hand, my Uncle Art’s cameras and the photo slide show he put together every Christmas offered a different kind of feeling; curiosity and wonder. 

Decades later I came to drawing as a way to ground myself after a loss. At that time I had a difficult time concentrating so I took comfort keeping my world focused in front of me on a 13” x 10” sheet of paper. This process yielded a group of drawings called Things That Sting, a precursor to the cut outs.

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

I honestly feel uncomfortable with that term and its associations.

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

I don’t want to evaluate or debate whether a drawing is good or bad. It’s more a feeling of interest or disinterest for me. 

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

Very Important as some of my drawings take a year to complete.

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

I make both large-scale installations and intricate works on paper; this is exactly what I do and how I work. 

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

My work changes as viewers move around it—the movement of bodies around my work is essential to the experience of viewing—and as light illuminates areas at different angles. In this way, my work is constantly shifting, revealing depths, complexities, and vulnerabilities that elicit physical awareness and corporeal empathy in the viewer.

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

Sometimes the immediacy and freshness of these kinds of drawings contain or emit an energy that is impossible to duplicate in more finished work. I like that energy and think it is important. 

       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 definitely like some graffiti and some of Manga culture, but I don’t see it as an influence in my work. 

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

I have no intellectual interest in comparing the differences between painting and drawing

       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'? 

Lines are one way to look at drawings, sure. I think drawings are about marks, smudges, erasure, and pressure.

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

I wouldn’t say emptiness. I wouldn’t say chaos either. If I’m “seeking” anything its an accumulation of energy. 

       Traditional drawing is a more intimate and 'personal' art form, yet a lot of contemporary art practice seeks a more social and participatory dimension. How is this reflected in your projects and drawings? 

My work falls into the categories of intimate and personal, but it is not at all traditional in form. I also ask the viewer to actively participate by moving around the work.

But if you mean “social and participatory” in the context of sharing works on social media platforms, inviting responses, or in the context of collaboration, I rarely work that way. I tend to work with less chatter, less feedback.  

       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? 

I can’t speak to this because I don’t teach drawing. I have no idea what’s going on currently in art education. I hope there are a lot of different approaches. 

I especially hope drawing traditions outside of White European cultures are being taught in the US. 

       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? 

In the beginning of the COVID crisis it was hard to concentrate. Then George Floyd was murdered and it was impossible to concentrate. During the first surge of COVID and the call for racial justice, my wife and I were also in the midst of moving to New Mexico. So the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the countless murders of people of color, the uprisings, moving, reckoning with the privileges of my whiteness, the election…all of this has made it impossible to concentrate.

As a human, I am responding to more than just the pandemic.

The pandemic shed light on the “old situation” and all of it impacts my creative practice.


       Your own questions and concerns… 

It’s been difficult to work on this project. As the months wear on I have grown bored and disinterested in the online presence. Haven’t we all? 

I crave the company of a person in the studio looking at my work. I crave looking at work in person…especially work that is about contemplation….I just want to look and be in space with art…without wall text…without screens. 


From Jeanine,

Hi Christine,

I love your work. And, I absolutely "feel" the similarities between you and Agnes Martin. It's a serene experience--transcendental, really. There's simplicity, but also a depth and detail that perhaps creates this sense of balance and peace, which pulls the viewer into the work. Whatever it is, I love looking at the work. 

When I look at several pieces of your work, there seems to be an interplay between texture--the rough edges of a cut out or the smooth shiny surface of a wire, light and dark, and shadows or shading. Can you speak about how you use natural light to complement some of your drawings; that is, if you do. When seeing "Cut Outs," I couldn't help but notice how shadows against the wall as well as on the paper itself effected the works. 

All best,


Thanks Jeanine. Exactly. The shadows, the play of light (both natural and artificial), the translucence of the paper after it’s been scarred and cut, the reveal of color, texture, form… 

I would say natural light is more like an element of my drawings and installations. I specifically seek out spaces that offer the capacity for natural light experiences both in my studio and exhibition spaces. It’s the light in these spaces that becomes the qualifying factor. The way my work interacts with light and shadow are key dimensions to experiencing and understanding the work. So “complimenting” suggests an added bonus when in fact the play of light is a conscious decision. My methods and materials are intentional. I’m intentionally considering light…the pause and absence of light. There is a thrill when light appears and disappears: making elements of my work visible or less visible or barely visible. I love waiting for each of those moments. 

Like my installation and sculptural work, the cut outs need an element of light. The pieces change as you move around them. The experience of it is fleeting. If you stand and look at it from one side, it looks eaten away. On the other side, it looks completely different, maybe solid. Previously unseen color pops up, some orange reveals itself. I am interested in the cut outs changing and shifting and holding the wall as you move around the space. Almost hypnotically holding the wall. I feel z. and p. are successful examples of that.  

I don’t always have the option of natural light so the work needs to stand up in artificial light as well. This was the case at the Ralph Arnold Gallery at Loyola University in Chicago. During the day I placed the work where it could harness daylight and in the evening it was lit artificially. Thinking about this transition was interesting to me as I imagined sunlight piercing and spilling behind the piece during the day, and by night, the gallery lights glistening off or splintering across the graphite grays of the surface creating texture and a kind of shimmering…