Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who do we draw for?

In my years of making art, I have experimented with oil pastels, chalk pastels, acrylic paint, oil paint, water colours, pencil crayons, candle wax, thread, linseed oil, food colouring, incense sticks, blood, tears, saliva and even urine.  I have printed, sewn, painted, woven, sawed, dripped, scratched, moulded and drenched. I have photographed naked people and even been photographed naked. I hung a bed from a four story building.
Despite all the mediums I’ve been able to explore, nothing compares to the feeling of charcoal on paper. Drawing has always been a very profound form of catharsis for me, and since the day I discovered expressionism I have put pencil to paper to confront emotions, events and ideas. Drawing is one of my primary modes of communication.
While this course has indeed allowed me to draw, and while I have been made to practice the fundamental skills required to build up a strong vocabulary to depict the many stories that I come across on a daily basis, I find the technical restrictions of the course somewhat frustrating. This term has led me to question why it is that we create art. For me, art is first and foremost a medium of expression, and the moment that technical accuracy becomes the primary concern, art becomes an elitist pursuit. For me, the beauty of drawing lies in its accessibility. Anyone can draw. One does not have to know how to calculate algebraic expressions, or name the capitals of the states, or write profound literature in order to draw. This is not to say that those who pursue drawing are without talent, but as a medium of expression, drawing is universal. My roommate, who is a neuroscience major and would not lay claim to a single artistic bone in her body, drew this portrait of me the other night:

You may say its terrible - technically inaccurate and lacking in all the fundamental skills required to constitute a  legitimate portrait.
Now consider that she did it without looking at the page.
I think it's brilliant.

I’ve begun to think about how far we can put our own regulations on art, and drawing in particular. If we consider a duck and a gun to be “random”, does that make them meaningless? Does the artist fail if their audience disagrees with the relevance of their subject matter? And consequently, who do we draw for?  This may be considered frivolous to some, but I create art according to how I feel. I cannot read a set of criteria, sit down and construct a piece of artwork according to someone else’s rules. It’s perhaps for this reason that I would plan out a piece just as we’d been told and then two days before the due date everything would change, because I’d had a revelation, or something had hit me hard that needed to be put to paper. 
All the drawing I’ve done previously has been abstract, and for the past two years I’ve been able to draw with complete freedom. These 90cm x 90cm canvases are charcoal drawings from my last exhibition in Hong Kong talking about the degradation of the senses, and what effect that would have on our perception and judgments of others according to race.

While technically they cannot be said to have cast shadows, perfect tonal range or even structure, they carry a message in a form beyond the barriers of words, and that, for me, is the true power of drawing.

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