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Drawing Out the Mute: Speaking Through Drawing

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

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Abstract

The chapter will examine a range of contemporary artists and approaches that use drawing to initiate relationships with environments and phenomena that may, on the face of it, appear unlikely candidates for a drawing conversation. The idea of drawing as a dialogical and communicative practice is well established; existing scholarship spans drawing which transmits information between two parties for instance in maps or designs, to its use as a tool of visual thinking or as element of social practice used to open dialogue. However, this chapter takes what might seem a counter intuitive approach in considering where drawing is used to ‘draw out’ information from otherwise mute or silent interlocutors. This is drawing practice which takes on the role of interpreter or even counsellor in communication.
Our focus will be on artists who use drawing purposefully to investigate, uncover and communicate information, experience and phenomena in objects, environments and spaces. While the artists we select may be expressive, make abstractions or simplifications their principal imaginative act is to sympathetically investigate, interpret and comment on experience in the world. In some case the ‘other’ or object of study chosen by these artists is not an obvious candidate for conversation, their interest perhaps beginning as a private meditation or unexplained desire, before becoming more public. Consequently interaction may be one-sided and pose difficulties to drawing and the chapter will also bring to light their technical challenges to find to tactics, methods and languages appropriate to engage, investigate and make evident their topics. These range from mapping a rockface (Dan Shipsides), to painstaking hyperreal mimesis (Sally Morfill and David Musgrave) to sharing agency with a changing geological environment (Ilana Halperin).
We begin by surveying perspectives on drawing as conversation before looking more closely at drawings which follow a method of ‘seeing in’. By this we mean artists use drawing to induce significance and meaning, how in compelling an interaction with situations and artefacts that we could not have anticipated drawing speaking with these artists ‘draw out’ the mute and give voice to events and phenomena that would otherwise go unheard. This concept is then developed by looking in detail at specific strategies employed by artists to illicit information and interprets its meaning using a series of illustrated examples drawn from contemporary practice.
Case studies will include artists who engage with subjects that are unexpected (e.g. Dan Shipsides) or unsightly and unworthy (Simon Woollham), or those engage with subject that do not immediately present themselves to visualisation (Emma Stibbon, Ilana Halperin), and also include examples of the artist attempting to draw out conversations with the downright obdurate (Dave Musgrave) or the aggressively uncommunicative (Sally Taylor). From these examples and others we evaluate the benefits of this silent communication, what is to be gained from these one way communications and what it might offer as a research methodology for understanding the world through drawing.