REFLECTION: project 1 – a changing scene

This was an exciting project. As my Part 5 – project 1 post relates, I started with a long session of sitting, watching, feeling, listening in the V&A museum. I’ve enjoyed drawing sessions there before but this time was different. Because of the research and thinking I’ve been doing on Abstraction, I found that I was thinking in abstraction. It wasn’t the detailed figures and shapes I was experiencing but the actual environment itself. It was an environment where there were all kinds of movement, not just bodies moving from one place to another. There was of course the wonderful contrast of the marble statues in movement poses but completely stationary. Time didn’t exist for them. Then there were the groups of visitors standing in conversation. But here the movement and time passing was happening between the individuals and I began to see that a conversation expressed movement of ideas and an exchange which was happening in time – back and forth, in and out, around and about as acceptance or rejection was happening.

The other ‘movement’ area which totally captured my thought was the movement which was happening in thought as the visitor absorbed new ideas and concepts from the items on display. This was a major change of scene happening without any visible sign of movement. This was the most exciting area for me. I would like to develop a body of work from this idea.

As I began to draw I realised that it was going to be almost impossible not to simply draw ‘frozen time’. However dynamic a moving figure might be, when drawn on paper it simply froze. So I knew that the key had to be in the kinds of lines I used in order to actually ‘feel’ time as I drew. In my project on abstraction I’d done a lot of work with line to try to understand what I could achieve through this simple shape. So I used this information as I began to draw. I think the materials I chose helped as well. These were pan pastels and a chiselled piece of foam. I also worked very quickly to try to capture a sense of movement through my own body. I think this gestural approach was important.

I was completely comfortable not focusing on any detail. For me, movement obliterated any feeling of detail.

In the first images, in which I was trying to portray the sense that bodies moving through a space leave an impression on time, I needed to do multiple surfaces. This meant continually drawing and then rubbing back and then drawing over the top. Sometimes I rubbed out, sometimes I used chalk. I found however that the paper could only take a certain amount of this treatment. It also required very careful tonal values with each layer. I was using charcoal and soft pastels and continually experimenting to see what was going to happen. In some cases it worked and in others I lost the tones and it was difficult to create the feeling of ‘impressions’. This area needs more experimenting.

My attempts with expressing the movement of thought from a standing contemplative figure were even more challenging and this can be seen from the photos on the post. Once again I played around with multiple layers. Each time the figure and the lines became more and more abstract and I reached the point of wondering if that was the only way of expressing this idea. I was trying very hard to keep away from the very clichéd image of a shaft of light from on high signifying enlightenment and inspiration…not sure if I’ve managed to do that. It also occurred to me that I may have greater flexibility to portray this idea of I was using colour. But this first attempt led me further into abstraction.

The final two images were pure abstraction and I did these as part of my parallel project. It was interesting to work on these drawings at the same time as doing the more representational images. It all came down to line and movement so that in one case the line and movement formed itself into images of figures, in the other the same line and movement of my drawing arm expressed itself in pure abstraction in the other image. It was interesting to me that there wasn’t very much difference.

I learnt a huge amount from this exercise and I felt the subsequent images were able to capture some sense of movement happening.

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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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