Drawing Train I, Slade, 2007
Drawing Train is the product of a one-week workshop organized by the British artist Dryden Goodwin to understand drawing as medium in pairs. For this project Ryosuke Kondoh and I collaborated to 'reconsider and reinterpret preconceived c0ncepts of drawing.
The outcome of this workshop is the first installment of a trilogy of drawing projects called the ‘Drawing Train’, altogether an experimental, experiential and fun exercise that zooms in on drawing as an idea and practice. An urban adventure, if you will, about drawing in general, and about art, architecture and good food too.
As one might guess Drawing Train is also a take on artist Mathew Barney’s well-known ‘Drawing Restraint’ series where Barney literally restrains his body while attempting to make drawings. Although our project has no direct relation to Barney’s, appropriation and consequent subversion of Barney’s title underlines a certain common interest in drawing. Kondo and I recognize a similar absurdity in Barney’s physical experiments and respond with our own absurdity to sum things up. That is to say with a title that shortly reads “Drawing Train”.
For our first project, Kondo and I meet mid-way by River Thames under the Waterloo Bridge, in their eyes, a true concrete beauty. Because we journey to meet in the middle, we think ‘why not make this first project about drawing on the move’. We travel around London by bus, by foot and by boat and make all kinds of drawings.
One challenge is to figure out the right material to draw on. After much deliberation we come up with the perfect piece of paper: a till roll (i.e., roll paper used in cash registers and calculators.) The continuity of a roll of paper, we think, should simulate the flow of a journey and the passing of time. The convenience of pulling out a blank bit of the roll each time there is a different view through the window of the bus is, simply, brilliant. From then on we try out ‘permutations’ of various situations ‘on the go’. We draw on the upper deck of a double-decker facing each other. We then try sitting on opposite sides of the bus, drawing different sides of the street. We draw from left to right, then right to left while looking out of the right side and then the left side. They roll paper out from the left and then from the right and draw from right to left and then left to right.
This first set of experiments trigger questions and doubts about direction and movement when drawing. It becomes an exercise to make one think the ‘un-thought of’. Surprise and be surprised, we think. Drawing is a whole lot more than it appears to be. Our findings become a formula and our till rolls an installation.
Drawing Train II, Slade, 2008
Ryosuke and I decide to get together again before graduation to have a second round of experiments on drawing. We put in a proposal to use the Slade Research Centre at Woburn Square to exhibit the results of their second experiment and are granted a sizeable part of the research centre. This time we agree to look for the gap in their drawings, both physically and as an idea, again be spontaneous and immediate, make drawings outside the Slade, but with colour, and on squares. We look at work by the Japanese art collective Rinpa Eshidan. We most certainly are interested in the group’s playful experiments where the artists rotate and paint, all simultaneously, on the same canvases. Having set these parameters Kondo and I start visiting famous public spaces including the newly renovated King’s Cross St. Pancras train station, Caurtaurd Institute, Tate Modern and other famous museums and galleries around London.
At the Courtaurd Institute, for example, we draw on opposite sides of the same transparent sheet with their markers. We realize we each can see what the other can’t. While my view is of one half of the courtyard Kondo’s is of the other. In short, together we have a full view. Later, at Tate Modern, in the Turbine Hall, we draw along a 167m fissure made by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. Again, we work on the same piece of paper. As we make drawings on the floor of this iconic museum we learn new things and literally experience drawing over the edge. At another concrete beauty that is the Barbican Centre, we experiment with drawing on actual chairs. We cover chairs with paper and draw on this paper the very chairs we wrap. This curious exercise involves touching and tracing as opposed to looking and then drawing. Once again we discover a ‘gap’. This gap between the intended and the result is manifested in the loss of figure. And then we notice another gap. This is the gap between the seemingly inevitable two dimensionality of a drawing and the three dimensionality of its subject. How can this gap be bridged? As these experiments get more and more complex the drawings become more abstract. These exercises generally result in highly ambiguous drawings for often both of us work on the same piece of paper drawing the very same thing. Regardless, it only seems natural to Kondo and me that these drawings be shown in an installation as in our previous project. Finally, the drawings are hung such that the overall effect of their presentation is a certain mood that suggests to the viewer their train of thought. As projected images spill onto the architecture of the room, go through other images and get interrupted and distorted a new sense of space is created that is unlike the original source of imagery. This superimposition of images on the walls, the floor and the ceiling of the room is perhaps even filmic. It is in fact like a projection of our journey through London as recorded in drawing. It is in the end an enjoyable installation that is suggestive of the fun we had towards building it. This visual diary concludes the second round of experiments for Kondo and I.