The Resilience of Drawing

Rachel Whiteread speaks at the Resilience of Drawing symposium at Chelsea College of Arts

Text by Frederic Anderson, MFA Fine Art, Wimbledon College of Arts
Pictures by Andrew Youngson, MA Drawing, Wimbledon College of Arts

The Resilience of Drawing symposium took place on 11 May 2016 at Chelsea College of Arts, addressing the question:

How does drawing continue to remain so significant a form in our Post Digital age?

This was an extremely stimulating and enlightening symposium organised by Tania Kovats – course leader for MA Drawing at Wimbledon College of Arts. The day was cleverly paced and structured, closing in on the topic of the Resilience of Drawing from five different directions, embodied by the five speakers.

Angela Kingston painted a vivid picture of the resurgence and shifting concerns of drawing practice in the 1970’s and 80’s, exploring the roots of her interest in the drawing and explaining what motivated her to set up the Centre for Drawing at Wimbledon.

Rachel Whiteread offered an intimate glimpse of her drawing practice as well as insight into her thinking on colour – how during the course of her career her working spaces and clothes have gradually gravitated towards the poles of white and black respectively in order to organise her thoughts, dispel confusion and streamline the flow of her work. It was revealing to note how her drawings seem to invert the blank space of the page in much the same way as her sculptures invert the spaces in which they are installed. Her ability to turn negative space into positive space seems to electrify both the empty pictorial space of the drawings and the physical space surrounding the sculptures, in both cases drawing it in to become an integral part of the work itself.

Mary Doyle gave us a rare insight into the challenges and rewards of curating drawing exhibitions and running Drawing Room; the only gallery space in Europe exclusively dedicated to raising the profile of contemporary drawing practice. Accommodating the vast breadth of diversity straddled by contemporary drawing was interestingly revealed as one of the biggest challenges the gallery faces when curating exhibitions.

Hillary Mushkin approached the topic from the unique perspective of drawing as a way of gaining access to normally inaccessible areas – in this case military research installations.

Tim Knowles’ approach to drawing centres on the concept of relinquishing control. Drawing on a background in sculpture, he creates intricate constructions that allow the wind itself to make drawings by gently stirring tree branches equipped with paper and pens. Other works are cleverly designed to create themselves during their postal voyage to the commissioning individual or gallery – a parcel that autonomously responds to its journey in the form of an abstract drawing that is only revealed upon its arrival. Just within the practice of this one artist we were introduced to an extraordinary range of different expressions of contemporary drawing practice – from different types of trees producing different types of drawings according to the stiffness of their limbs, to tracing landscapes in light on moonless nights and GPS-tracked people being scattered to the winds…

For those interested in contemporary drawing, this was an extremely stimulating afternoon of lectures that generated a forum for debate on the place and continuing importance of drawing within contemporary art practice as well as introducing a broad sprinkling of its diverse manifestations.
Afterwards, there was an opportunity to have a glass of wine to celebrate the launch of the Centre for Drawing online archive and mix with other UAL students from different courses, all united by a shared passion for drawing.

Tania Kovats addresses the panel
The audience listen attentively

Speaker biographies:

Angela Kingston is an independent curator and writer who set up The Centre for Drawing in 2000, where she coordinated a series of residencies and publications. She will present her thoughts on the context for the Centre for Drawing arose out of surge of drawing activity in the 70’s and 80’s that took a marginal activity and placed it more centrally.

Rachel Whiteread is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most important artists with a global impact. Turner Prize winner in 1993, though primarily a sculptor, her drawing practice remains the diary of her thinking, and has been the subject of publications and exhibitions at the Tate and internationally, in their own right.

Mary Doyle is co founder and Co Director of Drawing Room, the only public non-profit exhibition space dedicated to promoting and exploring contemporary international drawing within the UK and Europe. She will discuss the activities and agenda of Drawing Room.

Hillary Mushkin is an artist based in California. She will be discussing her project Incendiary Traces, an ongoing investigation of the role of landscape imagery in international conflict through on-site public “draw-in” events, research and publication of related materials with diverse contributors.

Tim Knowles is a UK artist with a post studio practice that engages with an experimental approach to drawing in response to elemental factors. His drawing are made through journeys; organising collective walks directed by winds; or by attaching drawing implements to the tips of tree branches.

Chair: Tania Kovats Kovats work is primarily sculptural, working both nationally and internationally, with many commissions in the public realm. Kovats has previous published her reflections on drawing in ‘The Drawing Book: Drawing as the Primary means of expression’, and ‘Drawing Water: Drawing as a mechanism of Exploration’. Kovats is Course Leader of the MA Drawing course at UAL London.