Exhibition: ‘LINES OF THOUGHT – Drawing from Michelangelo to now”
Poole Museum – September 2016
As the title suggests, this exhibition involved bringing together drawings from artists down the ages in order to present drawing as an analytical, essential element in the creative process, allowing for a continual activity of discovery. Drawing can inspire and enable a deeper understanding. Joseph Beuys, an artist who worked across media, described his thousands of drawings as a ‘reservoir’ of ideas; he considered drawing to be his ‘thinking medium’. This brings out a deeper meaning for drawing as not just for recording thoughts but also as a kind of thinking process: a medium for thinking in… drawing as an intellectual practice. In the early 20th century, the French author and Symbolist poet Paul Valery wrote:
“I know of no art which calls for the use of more intelligence than that of drawing. Whether it be a question of conjuring from the whole complex of what is seen, the one pencil stroke that is right, of summarising a structure, of not letting one’s hand wander, of deciphering and mentally formulating before putting down; or whether the moment be dominated by creation, the controlling idea growing richer and clearer with what it becomes on the paper and under one’s eyes; every mental faculty finds its function in the task.”
The contemporary artist Kiki Smith observed from her own work:
“Drawing is something where you have a really direct, immediate relationship with the material. With the paper and pencil in front of you. So you make a mark. And then you make another mark in relation to that mark. Whereas with a lot of my sculpture, I have a concept, and then it’s labour. With drawing you’re in the present.”
Drawing has been described as an artist’s internal monologue or ‘thinking aloud’.
The above shows how this exhibition began and the stimulation of thought which it engendered. It then went on to cover ‘The likeness of Thought’, ‘Brainstorming’, Enquiry and Experiment’, Insight and Association’ and finally ‘Development and Decisions’. Each section was illustrated with wonderful examples of drawing over a 500 year period from The British Museum’s collection.
This exhibition made a deep impression on me. Apart from the opportunity of seeing and studying some of the world’s greatest drawings, it stimulated me to think once again of what drawing has always meant to me. Drawing always gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and peace. I recall writing some time ago in the course, how drawing allowed me to become familiar with an object, get to know it and like all good relationships, develop an understanding with it. I recall the feeling of watching an object grow from the page as I explored the shapes, the dark hidden places and the sinuous lines. I could relate to the description of Edgar Degas’ drawing ‘Nude Woman Bathing’ where it said, “In this drawing Degas interrogates the form of a nude figure, the charcoal outline repeatedly rubbed and redrawn. It is likely not the result of an observational drawing, but instead illustrates Degas’ reliance on manipulation of motifs from his own work, formal considerations taking precedence over narrative or character. The composition of this figure and its relation to the frame of the page are the motivation behind the enquiries.” The use of space in a drawing is an element which I’ve been struggling with during this course and this description alongside seeing the drawing was an excellent example to me of how to go about designing the space.
One of my aims for this Drawing 2 course which I wrote at the beginning was to get back to some basic drawing in a more thorough use of the sketchbooks. The demands of the course and time restrictions had not yet allowed me to achieve this aim. But this exhibitions has once again brought drawing to the forefront of my mind and I would like to take up some of the questions raised in it for further study.