REFLECTION: Part 3: Drawing ‘machines’



For this exercise I used a machine which was totally random (see post). So the resulting 3 images had no repetitive structure which, from a machine, one would have expected. Yet the image was full of possibilities. After studying the images for some time, I decided to explore an ongoing interest in wall textures. The randomness of the shapes as well as the contrast in size and intensity of the shapes suggested textures and faces I had found in wall tiles and brickwork, photos of which I had filed away for future reference

This work was very exploratory because I didn’t know what was going to happen as I began to apply my own marks. My decision to use soft pastel and charcoal was carefully considered because I wanted to express a roughness, dryness. On the second study I also used pens and acrylic inks for contrasting shapes on the rough wall.

In answer to this question, my experiments showed that the movement away from randomness to the expression of an idea, brought structure to the image. I thought that the introduction of my own marks would over shadow the marks of the machine and that perhaps they would be lost. But in fact the opposite happened in my case. I found myself carefully nurturing the machine marks as I was working. They became the structure of the drawing. My additional drawing only served to enhance the original mark making as I built up the images. This was exciting for me and the resulting work is very different from anything I would normally do.

This result is unexpected. I have always rather dismissed randomness in painting seeing it as something of a ‘cop-out’. But this exercise has shown me that something happens in the random mark making…I don’t know what that is but it opens up for the artist new ways of working. It is also very freeing and expansive in developing the imagination. It leads the artist’s thought away from the predictable mark into infinite variety.

Rebecca Horn

German sculptor and film maker. In 1968 she produced her first body sculptures, attaching objects and instruments to the human body.

‘Finger Gloves” 1972 … exploration of ideas of touch and sensory awareness. Horn explains that wearing these gloves changed her relationship with her environment, bringing distant objects within her reach. ‘I feel me touching, I see me grasping. I control the distance between me and the objects.’

Finger Gloves 1972 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002

Finger Gloves 1972 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002

‘Scratching Both Walls at Once’ 1974-5 …

Scratching Both Walls at Once 1974-5 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002

Scratching Both Walls at Once 1974-5 Rebecca Horn born 1944 Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2002

From article in The Guardian…With Horn everything begins with drawing. “Making sketches with coloured pencils is still my favourite pastime.” ‘Bodyworks’, drawings on paper which spans the height and reach of her own body. 1972, Pencil Mask. Interesting that drawing became for her a language that was not suspect, having been born the year after the end of the Second World War when German as a language was a problem…”I had a Roumanian governess who taught me to draw. I did not have to draw in German or French or English. I could just draw.”

Horn has the Germanic love of machines and precision engineering…uses engineering and technology to create repeating moments in time that produce a view of timelessness. Her machines are vulnerable and human-centred.

What do you think Rebecca Horn was trying to find out or express by making the machines?

After brief research into Rebecca Horn’s work, I suspect that she has gone well past seeing as I would see them. To her, they have become living things into which she has injected a sense of the human. Perhaps this to some degree is the result of her German love of engineering but it goes well beyond that. What stands out to me as I read about her, are words like ‘playfulness’, ‘imagination’, creativity, freedom from box-like thinking, love of the mysterious. These are not qualities which you associate with machines. I think in her work she is trying to discover the infinite possibilities which exist outside of ourselves. She is taking the creative process into another dimension which leaves behind the personal ego trapped in its own sense of what can be achieved. She is about ‘releasing’.

How does the element of control effect the feel of the drawing?

Horn said, “Most people live in a little prison in their minds.” No matter how free a person feels they are in their work, there will always be the element of limitation as long as they feel they are expressing a personal ego. The drawing will reflect this. To the degree that the artist can put aside a personal sense of ownership of ideas, to that degree will the result be free of control.

Control seems to me also to be associated with skills of drawing and picture making. I feel to be at the greatest level of control when I’m concentrating on the ‘doing’ of the painting or drawing. As soon as pure feeling or the creation of responsiveness takes over, to that degree does the control lessen. Even the skills become subordinate to the feelings. I find this very difficult to achieve.

’Where is this space which exists outside of self?” When the drawing is done in that space, it is free of self and so free of control. The marks change but I don’t know where they come from. When the machine makes them, the answer to this is obvious. But it should also be possible to access this freedom without the machine.




About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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