Tomorrow evening I’m giving a short presentation on my recent studio research at the Drawing Room‘s first Study Forum event. Spaces are limited: the forum is open to Drawing Room network members by RSVP, but get in touch if you’re a non-member and would like to attend and I’ll add your name to the guest list.
Half-blind drawing and the naked form: the skin, the page, the tip of the eye
Working with text, video and sculptural installation to examine gesture and pictorial figuration in drawing and writing.
In life-drawing classes I was always taught to begin by measuring: holding my pencil at arm’s length horizontally then vertically to establish a set of proportions, then transposing these details onto the page as faint crosses and dots that plotted the coordinates of the human form in two dimensions. This preliminary work served to construct an imaginary apparatus of crisp sight lines in the air, articulating the gap between the object and the eye and secondarily between the eye and the hand and the page. But it was an apparatus that always seemed to get in the way, or seemed to thicken the air and make that get in the way, with the effect that the object and the drawing were bridged by the very same lines of sight that held them apart. Inhabiting the gap, the pencil would dart about in the air like a scalpel or a beak, pecking at the paper rather than burrowing into it the sensitive and spontaneous excavations that, for me, makes drawing with a pencil a compelling thing to do.
My latest forays into life drawing have been more satisfactory, and at the Study Forum I will present these recent experiments in ‘half-blind’ drawing: drawing the model without once looking at the page until all the work is done. Because it remains unseen, the surface of the page becomes an intimate proxy for the surface of the model’s skin, which the unseen pencil traces like a mute proboscis—the very tip of my eye trying to press itself against the skin to draw it by touch. Its blind caresses accumulate like spidery gauze on the page, as the tip never breaks contact with the surface in case it should lose its orientation on the skin. When after half an hour or so I finally disengage the pencil and look at the page, what I see bears less resemblance to the form of the model’s body than to the forms my own body has been moving through as my hand and eye traced her skin against the page.
These experiments have resulted in pencil sketches, subtitled videos and sculptural constructions. I will present examples of these works at the Study Forum alongside some questions and insights raised by the process of half-blind drawing. The project is part of my practice-led doctoral study at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, supervised by Brandon Taylor and Elizabeth Price.