sculptural objectification of line
in the hope of establishing a fuller understanding of what drawing is,where drawing is going, and whether or not this, or any, definition of drawing can be truly conclusive.
Drawing is often conceived of as both the ‘generative space of thought’
of the artist and the complex,tacit projection of space on the surface understood by both the creator and viewer. Unlike painting, whichgenerally demands an all-over handling of the canvas and a constant relation of its form and content to its
overall composition, drawing has a locality of line that need reference only itself, creating as it does ‘a
single cell of design, sequestered from its surroundings, cordoned off by the neutralising effect of the
reserve’s protective cocoon’.
This ‘reserve’, as Norman Bryson calls it, refers to the emptiness of thesurrounding paper which he claims is ‘perceptually present but conceptually absent’
; similarly, JohnBerger describes how pa
per ‘becomes what we see through the lines and yet remains itself’.
It is worth
noting, however, that paper is not always ‘conceptually absent’ or unchanged; it often has an implicit
function not only as the surface on which the drawing is made but as its inverse, as telling in its negativespace as the line is in its descriptive markings.
In this case, the surface becomes integrated as a medium,
interweaving purposefully with the artist’s line; it is exposed through the stroke’s textural revelation of it
materiality even as it is denied by the viewer’s construction of space, which accepts or refuses the
incorporation of blankness as necessary.
Alain Badiou rather poetically examines this duality of surface
present and absent
when he declares that th
e essence of drawing is its ‘movable reciprocity betweenexistence and inexistence’.
What is foregrounded is the inextricability of drawing from its surface (here,presumed to be paper), both artistically and philosophically, a condition that is deemed exclusive todrawing and fundamental to its very nature.This intertwining of drawing and surface does not necessarily imply paper, though it is often inferredthat way (as evidenced by the above quotes). The reasons for this linkage are many, and worthquestioning anew. Although paper may not be intrinsic to the process of drawing, it is certainly intrinsicto its history, and it has long been the standard stage on which drawing took place. As drawing expanded,theoretically and artistically coming into its own, and began to include more mark-making media than thecustomary ink, chalk, pencil and conté, it became necessary to demarcate drawing-in-itself from the other
Catherine de Zegher, ‘The Stage of Drawing’, in Catherine de Zegher, ed.,
The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act
,London and New York, 2003, 267-278, 267.
Bryson, ‘A Walk for
Walk’s Sake’, 151.
John Berger, ‘Drawing on Paper’,
in Jim Savage, ed.,
Cork, 2001, 156-162, 161.
Here we see an interesting correlation with typography, in which the letters are often said to be held in space by thesurrounding blankness more so than by the forms of the letters themselves. See Gary Hustwit,
, 2007,London [DVD].
Newman, ‘The Marks, Traces and Gestures of Drawing’, in
The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act,
Alain Badiou, ‘Drawing’,
, Issue 28, Fall 2006, 42-49, 44.