Day of Night - Handmark Gallery - May 2013

The following is a transcript of remarks made by Dr Irene Barberis, director Langford 120 and Founding Director of Metasenta and the Global Centre for Drawing, on opening night - Friday 5 May 2013.

After a short introduction explaining that her talk would be in two sections (the first an explanation about the artist himself taken from an email to her from him, and the second on the very nature of drawing itself), Dr Irene Barberis commenced with:

David wrote me, "since moving to Tasmania from Sydney 14 years ago his work has very much been influenced by landscape, its traditions and by the many excellent landscape artists that call Tasmania home. For example, when he moved to Tasmania he was fortunate to be taught by Raymond Arnold, who currently lives in Queenstown on the west of Tasmania, in printmaking.

He says that Raymond has had a great impact on the way he thinks about and consumes landscape and then processes it into imagery, as well as the way he makes marks through etching. Although he says that he has very rarely etched, the scratchy, scribbly energy of acid burning into a plate is something that has intrigued him and that he has experimented with much when drawing.

His main reason for choosing printmaking was essentially to draw, but many of the techniques of printmaking that he learnt, such as positive / negative, working in reverse, and colour/tone separation still appear in elements of his practice today.

About 10 years ago he found himself in a helicopter flying to small and remote island off the south east of Tasmania called Tasman Island, and ever since that day he has solely used the island as subject matter for all of his artwork. Since then, he has travelled back to this island every year.

In 2005 a group was formed called, Friends of Tasman Island, and he became a member, and each year the group undertakes 3-4 trips to embark on conservation work. He is helicoptered in with them, left there for 10 days at a time, where he works each day for half day and then explores for the rest.

He says that these trips are quite something and what intrigues me is the way he talks about time, although he talks about it as deep time. Of slow and deep time and what this means to him when he thinks about and draws the place and its landscape.

He mentions that when on the island the world is left behind and a whole new way of life commences. His lifeline to civilisation and humanity flies off with the helicopter and everything awakens differently within him.

In one way it’s quite romantic with elements of the sublime. He says it’s a very fertile period, and that he doesn’t really draw much when on the island, it’s more about absorbing what's there, going in with an open mind and letting the experience dictate what happens; again thinking of deep time, and letting the flow of time and deep time take over.

His drawings follow when back in his studio and generally take much more time thinking and looking at imagery and re-reading through his journal before commencing with anything drawn.

He went on to say that explored printmaking until 2008 when at this time he commenced a master of fine art at the University of Tasmania and decided with this to focus only on drawing and with charcoal. He still uses charcoal but has recently added grey pastel as a way to push the tonal values a little further as you can see from the work here tonight.

He chose charcoal as he wanted to strip the printmaking back, and instead use his research time to explore how he could explore one medium more intensely, to push it, bend it, stretch it he says.

Being grounded in printmaking provided him with a solid base of techniques to build upon. He sees similarities between the island as he does with the use of charcoal. The place and the medium have so much to offer to which he seems to be discovering more things about them, as a way to keep his practice energised.

The conclusion of his MFA a few years ago was a body of drawing large in large in scale, some works up to 10 metres in length, and again focused on the immersive experience of an island landscape. Immersive of being in landscape, and in a way being immersed in the drawing and mark making.

In December 2013 he is exhibiting at Burnie Regional Art Gallery in the north west of Tasmania and once again will be working to this large scale which he says he is quite excited about as being limited by scale for commercial exhibitions has a very different feel.

With the smaller work, he says, he focuses more on consciously constructing compositions rather than letting his gestural body explore the flow of landscape through broad sweeping mark making."
When we drove here this evening David talked about his influence by film composition and he discussed with me some interested links between film and drawing that he will be developing in the future, and I look forward to hearing of developments when they come to fruition.

The second part of my talk will focus on the question ‘what is good drawing’ which was recently asked of me as part of the 2012 'Drawing Out' conference in London. When David asked me to provide some opening remarks to this exhibition he suggested that I discuss the fluid and dynamic notions of drawing so I thought these words that I used in London would be particularly suited.

Drawing is a continuum; a multi-faceted, transdisciplinary global practice. It is something that almost every person encounters and partakes in at some period during their lives; from the early childhood marks of notations, writings and texts to open-ended contemporary processes. Drawing is akin to a visionary process, is open ended, in itself is kinetic; as some have said, it is a verb, it is an action, it is a movement across a thought, gesture and trace, it is the mark and its residue. There are no rules; drawing can be as minimal as a breath and as complex as the wave structures and recordings of the ocean. Drawing is kinaesthetic; a movement between points, a connection, recognition and gesture of any idea, mark, trace, line, symbol, shape, medium, space or surface. Everyone has their own language of the mark.

Drawing is the sensory and/or conceptual transmission of ideas. It is a cultural conduit for articulating the transformation of meanings and experience, a cultural lens through which to view complexities of human endeavour and the environmental, social, political and economic forces of globalization.

Defining what a ‘good’ drawing is, is a remarkably difficult task, especially as the word ‘drawing’ has such expansive meaning. In the western art academy, a ‘good’ classical or traditional drawing is one which ticks the boxes of design/ desegno – composition, line, tone, balance, spatial harmony, volume, rhythm – and on which contains conceptual clarity. It encompasses ‘traditional’ skill and is a product of ‘good draughtsmanship’. A good drawing has simplicity, a pared-back or essential presence; it contains animation and spontaneity, and a unity of components linking us in some way to the wider spectrum of the cosmos.

A good drawing explores intersecting porosities of the visible, invisible and conceptual, and in so doing reveals particularities of ideation – the artist’s process of thinking. Sol Lewitt, in his paragraphs on conceptual art, says that ‘it’s difficult to bungle a good idea.’ (I think this is so.) William Kentridge speaks of an invisible work that precedes his visible work, an interface between himself and the realization and formation of his ideas. This invisible work is part of his methodology in the overall drawing.

My theory is that a good drawing, in whatever manifestation, moves us neurologically and kinetically into a space that I term the ‘liminal edge’, the boundary between logic and the unknown or intuitive, permitting the viewer to potentially access both the rational and intuitive experience of the artist’s perceptions at the point of making.

The artist is witness to the selection of … (idea, beauty, phenomenon, light, time, conviction, pathos, etc.); the drawing is a ‘signifier’, a residue of the artist’s perceptions at that time; and the viewer, in a transhistorical way, is witness to the drawing. In this sense, a good drawing carries the artist’s intentions and visual knowledge succinctly, allowing others to experience their insights. It is the poetry of the mark-making, the intuitive response to the visible, invisible and conceptual, which elevates the ordinary into the extraordinary.

A ‘great drawing’, or a ‘great work of art’, transforms you; it shifts your being, your thinking, your emotions and your perceptions. You are transfigured by the interaction – you move away, knowing that you are altered, your perceptions changed and your thinking expanded – it is liberating, or it can be the most confronting experience – either way you have entered a meta-space.

Conclusion; Technical prowess, obsessive outworking of vision, inspired moments, deep perceptual insights, clarity of vision (to name a few), translated into marks or movements, produce in the viewer a neurological shift, a ‘psychochoreography’ mirroring what the artist has experienced. The drawing is the conduit whereby the viewer is able to become a participator and sharer in the translation, response and outcome of the one who has drawn – be it on a cave wall, an altar, a sketchbook from the Renaissance period, a wall from the 12th century or 21st century, or a pattern of equations – this, for me, is good drawing; a ‘great’ drawing changes you.

Dr Barberis thanked the crowd and the artist, and to finish with officially opened the exhibition.

(Reprinted courtesy Irene Barberis)

Day of night, charcoal and pastel on paper, 1050 mm x 1100 mm, 2013 (Sold) Perpetual night, charcoal and pastel on paper, 1030 mm x 920 mm, 2013 Canyoneer, charcoal on paper, 990 mm x 990mm, 2013 (Sold) Grasping the unknown, charcoal and pastel on paper, 940 mm x 950 mm, 2013 Outer void, charcoal and pastel on paper, 810 mm x 1410 mm, 2013 Dream aglow, charcoal and pastel on paper, 940 mm x 1040 mm, 2013 (Sold) Insidious delusion, charcoal and pastel on paper, 950 mm x 990 mm, 2013 (Sold) Over the edge, pastel on paper, 1040 mm x 750 mm, 2013 Slippery time, charcoal and pastel on paper, 1140 mm x 1100 mm, 2013 (Sold) The poetics of nothingness, charcoal and pastel on paper, 940 mm x 940mm, 2013 Out of space, charcoal and pastel on paper, 940 mm x 980 mm, 2013 (Sold) Inner void, charcoal and pastel on paper, 950 mm x 1000 mm, 2013 (Sold) Micro landscape, charcoal and pastel on paper,430 mm x 580 mm, 2013 Grasping the unknown, charcoal and pastel on paper, 480 mm x 480 mm, 2013 (Sold)