Tuesday, 27 April 2010

on writing and drawing

Since childhood, I have had a passion for, and committment to visual art that I have not had for literature. Despite this, my first impulse, usually, is to write, rather than draw, to choose words rather than visual imagery to articulate my thoughts and feelings.
An exception to this was during the time of making the rainbow and volcano drawings, when it was difficult to write at all. Then drawing offered me the means of releasing difficult personal material visually.
Now I find that the words I write are more powerful than the drawings that I make, indeed at present, I am unable to make drawings at all.
Whilst a postgraduate student at Glasgow school of Art, my studio, the first I had ever had for any length of time, was a classroom in a Victorian High School for girls. The room was large, folding glazed doors dividing it from the adjacent room, with a blackboard made of blackened glass, and the original wooden boarded floor. During the last months of my time at the Art School, I began to write on this floor and on the walls in white chalk, words taken from my diaries and sketchbooks. At the time I was more able to write than to make visual art; although I made a good many transparencies, mostly of personal objects, such as items of jewelry, spilt face powder, and pages from letters for example, I found it difficult to assemble discrete pieces of work from them.
The floor texts afforded me the opportunity to write text upon text, to obliterate, to erase, allowed the freedom to experiment whilst using the simplest of drawing and writing instruments. They comprised autobiographical material, questions and responses taken from psychometric tests, the recounting of dreams and diary entries. They had a strong visual presence; despite their ephemeral almost illegible nature, and the fragility of the material from which they were made, they functioned like drawings.
Some years later, whilst playing the chalk line game with Patrick, I discovered the connection between the lines we drew on the paths of my parents garden, and the earlier texts made on the floor of the old school room.
At present, when my self confidence is shaky regarding my status as a visual artist, it is reassuring to look upon the polaroids I made of the floor texts, and to let the realisation that written words can function as drawings begin to find a home in my mind.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

on drawing V

I am advised that all is not lost, that I shall be able to make drawings again, that the well spring from which the volcano drawings issued, has not disappeared permanently. Do I choose not to believe this, or is it a characteristic of depression that I cannot?
Even feeling that the volcano drawings might have some merit is difficult, and when I look upon them, I am persuaded that my achievement is of a very minor order.
I am afraid to begin to draw, convinced that what I produce will be inferior. I do not know what to draw, or how to draw. I know that when I begin, the bullying will also begin, the self recrimination, chastisement, the comparing of myself with others, the self punishment when I see how far I must always fall behind those who are successful. It simply is not worth the pain to try.

Monday, 19 April 2010

on drawing IV

I cannot draw, I cannot make art at all. There is no need, no imperative.
I had hoped for years that I would be able to make a worthy contribution in terms of my work. Now I am forced to recognise that this can never be.
Who does not feel pain on relinquishing a long held dream?
I research contemporary artists, and am overawed at the evidence of such ability. My own endowments are very minor.
Drawing for pleasure is a phrase that has no meaning for me. I made the volcano drawings and the rainbow drawings from a need to express material visually. But in truth, the words that I write are more powerful than the visual images that I produce.
Where is the focus of my attention? My efforts as a writer and as a visual artist have been directed towards the delineation of psychological states, most recently my own long standing struggle with clinical depression. My concern is with struggle, with difficulty, with darkness rather than light.
During periods of intense difficulty, I may, or I may not be able to write, or to make drawings. The first rainbow drawings, and two of the volcano drawings were made at a time of darkness on discharge from psychiatric hospital. The greater the intensity of my suffering, the less able I am to make work at all, however. Do I thus identify periods of greater anguish by my inability to make work?
Or is the condition that I find myself in at present rather one of resignation, the kind of crisis that occurs as one approaches middle age, and becomes painfully aware of the passing of time, and the dwindling of one's capabilities, the fading of one's youthful dreams?
Never since leaving hospital have I felt more keenly the sense of separation from the self that made those chalk line drawings on the path.


On a soft, calm day in April, yet edged with steel, I founder, and cannot refrain from shedding hopeless tears.