This will be the blog for the new CAS Research Group ‘Drawing Languages for Dissent’ www.chapelartsstudios.co.uk/DrawingGroup2020
CAS research Group
‘Drawing Languages for Dissent’
First session (2 March 2020)
The following is a compilation of quotes from Tim Ingold (2016) Lines: A Brief History – Introduction; and comments made by the participants during the conversation. Ingold is a social anthropologist. In this book he proposes to write an anthropology of the line.
[I]t was not enough to focus only on the lines themselves, or on the hand that produced them. I had also to consider the relation between lines and the surfaces on which they are drawn (Ingold, Introduction, 2016, p. 2).
Yonat found this point relevant to her drawing practice, as the technique she uses involves separating the drawing from the surface. She is developing a research method informed by feminist theories, particularly maternal subjectivity.
Ingold identifies two types of lines: ‘threads’ and ‘traces’. The relationship between the two are not contrasting but transformative. Ingold noticed that surfaces are formed when ‘threads turn into traces’ (p. 2) and disappear when ‘traces turn into threads’ (p. 2).
William pointed out an earlier text (Ingold 2005) that better explains lines as threads and traces using a metaphor of the washing line and a line drawn in the sand. (https://sites.eca.ed.ac.uk/playthink/files/2011/09/transformations.pdf).
Ingold discusses straightness in historical context, from Euclidian geometry onwards. It is only since the Renaissance that the straight line became dominant, associated with rational thinking, cause and effect. In his everyday environment Ingold notices straight lines in walls, pavements, books and floors. He uses the term ‘ruled surfaces’ where straight lines do not connect other things. The source for these lines is ‘the taut-warp threads of the weaver’s loom’ (Ingold, 2016, p. 4). Things connect to other things based on this ‘surface of rule’. In contrast to modernity’s certainty, lines today are fragmented and, he writes: ‘the task of life is once more to find a way through the cracks’ (p. 4).
Maija looked at lines around her. Contrary to the idea that these lines do not connect she noticed meeting points where lines touch.
Linn met Ingold and learned about his research of the Hadza tribe (Ingold 1988) where he investigated the hunting-gathering walking line and examined the ideas of an emotional innate creativity and haptic enquiry. Linn also pointed out similarities between Ingold and Susan Hiller.
There was an ambiguity between theory and metaphor in Ingold’s writing. An example of using poetic language successfully is the French philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard (Bachelard, The Poetics of Space 1994) who investigated the poetic imagination.
Reflecting with drawings
Ingold’s enquiry took him on a journey from words to lines in textiles and back to words.
Words were used in Anne’s drawing. Her process included writing words and erasing them to produce a net of lines made of traces. She is interested in line-word relationship and how ideas emerge, erased and change, as a kind of palimpsest. In particular she is interested in Arabic. A language that she can’t read appears like drawing in contrast with a familiar language where the word comes before the line.
Responding to Ingold’s distinction between lines as ‘threads’ and ‘traces’, William drew a landscape with a washing line and lines drawn in the sand.
Amanda began drawing walking lines, then map, then waves. She sees lines everywhere. She then made hatching lines and finally arrived at drawing a bicycle.
Elizabeth built surface made of lines. This led her to think of ephemerality, recalling Picasso’s ‘Light drawings’. (https://artsandculture.google.com/story/when-picasso-put-down-his-brushes-and-painted-with-light-instead/lgLSm8J028B8KQ). When in art school she was given an exercise to fill an A5 sketchbook with lines, which made a deep impression on her.
Linn prepares gesso at home and use it to prime the surface of her drawings. Linn scratches the surface using tools that leave marks on the paper. She then rubs charcoal, inserting it to the scorched-scratched surface. She is interested in questions of boundaries and prefers to “make my own way”. She talked about trace and ‘ghost’ walks. Linn said: “Being an artist makes me be happy in myself”.
Clare thinks about layers, working with wire, beginning from the surface. Looked at traces or what remained (weather). The surface was nearly all gone.
Before she became visually impaired Janice’s practice included poetry and drawings. At the session she made drawings using both sides of the paper; on one side there were visible marks organized in patterns, yet on the other side traces of these marks were etched. Participants could feel the drawings which are both optic and haptic.
Christine said that each mark has its feeling. She was thinking of trace and line; became aware of the table, its smooth surface, this led her to think about dance which is part of her practice.
Maija used a slow technique of needle and thread with paper; the paper is associated with words and drawing. When reading Ingold’s text she was thinking of holes puncturing the surface of the paper. She made a drawing in which both sides are visible and equally important.
Karen uses electric tape and scalpel as her drawing material and tool. She checks every word in the thesaurus. She looked at the word ‘alterity’ responding to Ingold’s text. Ingold writes: ‘Alterity, we are told, is non-linear. … Colonialism, then, is not the imposition of linearity upon a non-linear world, but the imposition of one kind of line on another’ (p. 2).
Yonat used pencil, graphite stick, eraser, charcoal and pen on paper. She was thinking of layers and materiality, traces and lines. She was only half surprised when the ‘pregnant Barbie’ appeared. It is a current them in her research.