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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Mark Devereux Projects Residency

For two weeks in April I was Artist in Residence at Mark Devereux Projects in  Federation House. This residency began my Arts Council England funded research and development project 'Drawing as Experience' which over 18 months will enable me to create a new body of drawing work, including an exploration of drawing and hypnosis. I will be collaborating with musicians, artists, psychologists, curators and workshop participants along the way, and all of it will be documented here.

When I draw in response to sound, using a metronome, under hypnosis or using the physical gesture of drawing itself to create or enhance a certain state of mind, I work in the moment, going on journeys within the drawing emotionally, physically and visually, balancing the conscious and unconscious. The remaining drawings describe something of these journeys. The most significant thing that happened during the residency was the realisation that my attempts to inhabit drawing fully could mean extending beyond those moments, having a conversation with them. My exploration of this involved the act of 'drawing back in' to existing drawings, revisiting, reflecting and retelling.

The sheer scale of the space I was given, and looking closer at the work of Anselm Kiefer helped me to consider how to position my work within a space, exploring where each drawing 'belonged', for example on the floor in the place of it's making, or confronting the viewer like a stone monument. I also developed a new way of working for my performance work (drawing in response to live improvised music), whilst exploring new collaborations with musicians.

Below are some examples of the work I made at Federation House, along with my notes on their making. For more images from the residency and other recent work please follow this link


'Ghost', chalk on black paper, 256 x 135 cm

'the act smoothing chalk into the skin of the crumpled paper, like smoothing or taming the surface of a sculpture' - Residency sketch book

The drawing above began life as a drawing made in response to live music, made in the moment with energy and abandon. Looking at the drawing one day I was struck by an overwhelming tiredness and the reminder that these moments are just that, we can not exist in a permanent state of intensive energetic expression, afterwards there comes a heaviness, a slowing down and reflection. And with distance, what is remembered of those moments? what remains of that particular set of lived feelings and actions? Our memory is selective, things are lost and changed.... 

I wanted to act out the sensation of heaviness and restraint; moving onto the 'music drawing'  I started by penning in the existing marks with a line, containing them, then held them more firmly still, with a thick sea of chalk. And finally a lengthy act of slowly smoothing the chalk over the surface repeatedly with the palm of my hand - veiling parts and letting others remain. I was commenting on the contrasting explosion of energy beneath, distilling it to a still and shadowy, almost bodily, form.


Detail 'Untitled', charcoal and burnt log on black paper, 
271 x 168 cm

'Physical doing (repetitive especially) unlocks something, your mind can drift and walk, things rise' - Residency sketch book.

'Untitled' took many forms and was made in one long sitting. I began by responding to the sounds of the space (building work outside and the metronome inside) but soon, as my note above says, things began to rise. I was fully inside this drawing, every move and mark was directly bound to my thoughts and feelings, it was a drawing that had to happen. However drawing this was an intensely felt experience, and afterward became something I did not want to talk about. It was also the one people who visited were most intrigued by (because of the clear presence of a figure within it, amongst a body of mostly abstract work).

The definiteness of the figure in this drawing is unusual, in most of my work if something representational emerges it is only half there or becomes obscured completely, and I like this tension. I think this is partly because this suits the subject of my drawings - sensations, feelings, an otherness. But perhaps there is also a limit to how much I want to say, or how direct I want to be in the telling.

 Untitled (Pink One) 

'Untitled (Pink One)', chalk and pastel on black paper,
 598 x 135 cm

I see this one as a skin, showing on it's surface the space it grew in, the processes It had been subjected too and the time that passed during it's making. As with 'Ghost' It started life as a drawing made in response to live music. I began by dragging it over a table and 'wiping it' with my hands, methodically obscuring much of the original drawing. It then returned to the floor and underwent a series of more gentle processes, like a ritual, in which I tentatively smoothed edges, or protectively covered parts. The softness of it all and the trace of the worn floor boards seeping through into the drawing felt right, I wanted it take on this place and these acts. I was slowly fossilizing the drawing beneath, preserving something... an archeologist at a dig with a tiny brush, making thousands of tiny meticulous sweeps over many hours, unsure of what would eventually be revealed or where it would end...

The material of dust (charcoal, pastel, chalk) is important, although it starts as an independent held tool, it very quickly becomes my hands, my body, and the paper as it disintegrates.

Drawing in response to live improvised music

'Sound Drawing (Vonnegut Collective)', charcoal on paper, 
1000 x150 cm Photo Darren Nixon

Detail 'Sound Drawing (Dan Violin Solo)', charcoal on paper,
 390 x 275 cm

These drawings remain in the moment, they are joined to the speed and energy of the live improvised music, the conversation between myself and the musicians, and the large area of paper I negotiate as I (very physically) mark my response. The drawings are 'known' to an audience through the witnessing of their making, whether in a live performance or documented through film (as I will be exploring during this ACE research and development project). There is no set rule in my mind for the resting place of the drawings after the act, it depends on the meaning each individual one holds for me. Some will be kept and seen, others will become engulfed by a new drawing. A moment frozen or a moment lost.

Please follow this link to find out about the performance Dan Bridgwood Hill and I carried out at the Whitworth gallery soon after the residency.

Hypnosis Drawings

'Hypnosis Drawings Three' and 'Hypnosis Drawing Four',
 charcoal on paper, 59.5 x 42cm

During the residency I spent a day in Oxford carrying out my first session of drawing while under hypnosis (in collaboration with Psychology researcher Devin Terhune). Please follow this link to find out what happened.

Developing live drawing performance work with Dan Bridgwood Hill Photo Darren Nixon

Whilst reflecting on the work I produced during the residency, I have have begun to look to others; Alan Davie's paintings and drawings, 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' by Werner Herzog, 'The Mind in the Cave' by David Lewis - Williams, Australian rock art and 'The Songlines' by Bruce Chatwin. I'm not sure yet where these sources of inspiration may take me, but for now I know that they each somehow intersect with the place I have reached at the end of this residency.

'Aboriginals could not believe the country existed until they could see and sing it' - 'The Songlines 

'Although every work of mine must inevitably bear the stamp of my own personality, I feel that each one must, to be satisfactory, be a new revelation of something hitherto unknown to me, and I consider this evocation of the unknown to be the true function of any art' - Alan Davie

‘The process of painting was very distinctive – layer upon layer destroying what was underneath – and always working spontaneously and automatically – so of all the works done, very little was kept – only those images which happened in the rare magical moments when I was completely surprised and “enraptured beyond knowing”.’ - Alan Davie

'Maybe the animal and landscape like images that sometimes grow out of your drawings are archetypes that have been allowed to come out. Or maybe they are influenced by Jackson's (our son) story books as well? And that means that it is hard to tell if this kind of imagery is innate or learned when we are very young. Having Jackson gives you an idea of that first learning of images, so its an interesting time for you to be doing this' - Andrew Brooks 

Photos by Andrew Brooks unless stated otherwise.

View more images of my recent work here  Gallery  

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