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Drawing as Babel Fish

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Illustration
Issue number2
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)233-252
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The paper examines the emergence of illustrative practices among fine artists to achieve a particular mobility, one which enables them to gather, synthesise and communicate information across diverse environments, locations and communities. This topic is at the core of our current research project, Walking the Line: Drawing in Other Terrains. As artists and teachers of drawing whose practices take us to unusual, and challenging environments , both conceptual and actual, we explore how these itinerant artists use drawing to translate into graphic form information, ideas and practices from other fields of activity, for instance medicine (Lucy Lyons) and political activism (Jill Gibbon).

There is a growing appetite among contemporary artists to work collaboratively and across previously separate disciplines. In drawing we see artists leaving the studio to seek out ever more responsive and dialogical applications of drawing, for instance, Peter Matthews collapsing drawing and oceanography. This reveals a hybrid, fluid approach in drawing, a new sensitivity in which drawing is used by artists as a way of analysing, depicting, communicating and reflecting upon aspects of lived experience, some of which might normally be the province of other research professionals.

While these contemporary practices are at the cutting edge of drawing, we discuss their direct lineage to John Ruskin’s Elements of Drawing (1857) and his belief in the use of drawing to interrogate the world and our position in it. Situated in this context, Ruskin reminds us of our social and ecological responsibilities and provides us with the tools (observational drawing) to address these issues.

Ultimately we argue this under-acknowledged mode of practice is timely and significant for a globalised interdisciplinary research community because it reveals drawing’s capacity to intercede, solve problems and build relationships across otherwise disparate communities and areas of expertise.

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©Intellect 2016