Drawing – in and outside – Writing
Although for the viewer writing and drawing are discrete disciplines with different rules of comprehension and interpretation, for the maker there is a similarity of process. The origins of writing reveal this closeness: in the Greek word ‘graphein’, drawing and writing share an etymological root. Examining Medieval manuscripts or, more prosaically, the early scrawls of children, the distinction between drawing and writing is often difficult to make. From a phenomenological perspective writing and drawing are also closely related. Writing retains the potential to slide into drawing; drawn lines can easily become letters. Drawing – in and outside – writing has investigated, from the artist’s point of view, how thinking, writing and drawing come together in the creative act of drawing.
In 2011 artists Kelly Chorpening, Rebecca Fortnum, Peter Morrens and Ans Nys began to make work with the intention of investigating the relationship between writing and drawing. Individually and together, they asked if writing could ever become drawing and whether drawing might have a syntax or be read? They explored the ways in which thinking and writing can become fused in the creative act of drawing and this book is the result of this speculation.
Initially driven by the enquiries of their own practices, which often used text or writing, the artists began to devise ways they could interact and carry out this research together. The notion of correspondence (rather than collaboration) became important as it allowed for exchange and discussion between the artists. Drawings and writing were sent by post to initiate dialogue or in response to other drawing-letters. Other art-works were made as they worked side by side in London, Gent and Lier, experiencing first hand each other’s making processes. Working in the same studio the artists could observe and discuss each other's approaches and realisations were sometimes made through the simple act of re-writing and re-drawing other artists' words and images. The artists thus formed a greater comprehension of the modes of address they chose to use, but also gained insight into how tracing or copying can function in the quest for knowledge and understanding. It was interesting to note how some images or words were picked up, seeming to withhold, or become amplified by, these acts of interpretation or restaging, whilst others fell out of sight, lacking resonance with the group. A large group show of 81 artists at Voorkamer, Lier in May 2011, meant that the artists resolved their own production for exhibition as well as allowing other contemporary artists works to be drawn into the debate. For this exhibition the artists individually curated sections of the show and this meant that they could follow strands of their thinking through a range of contemporary practices, with Voorkamer itself contributing a larger overview of the subject.
The other outcomes of this project were an artists’ book and a cahier of the same title. In the book published by RGAP (UK) and designed by Colin Sackett, each artist developed their own visual chapter that represented the narrative of their thinking during the project. Images and words flit from one chapter to the next, appearing in different forms, to weave a complex web of influence and reflection. As the project continued each artist (perhaps subconsciously) began to fill perceived gaps in how the relationship between drawing and writing was being addressed. By the end, a wide range of approaches were in play: spontaneous, planned, revised, erased; legible, incoherent, gestural, iterative; intimate, formal, casual, monumental
As well as documentation of the Voorkamer exhibition the cahier published by OPAK (BE) contains essays by all four artists that outline their individual research processes and discoveries.. . In exploring this relationship between the written and the drawn, the artists have made use of drawing’s transparent, direct and immediate qualities yet have also reinforced the notion of drawing as an apt way of reflecting on artists' thinking.