I don’t intend to get ‘bogged down’ debating this question. Like Photography, Drawing is polysemous and debates about its ‘meaning’ will probably circle forever around its various forms and applications. I have read/viewed a number of sources already (see below) and have more to read. It is interesting and enjoyable, and I’ll continue to read/reflect as I study, I’m sure. But there is a sense emerging as to the domain in which Drawing (and these debates) exists, leaving me more confident than I was about context.
Artist, Deanna Petherbridge, is quoted in one of the publications below, from a 1991 exhibition catalogue introduction – ‘The Primacy of Drawing, An Artist’s View’: “Drawing is the primal means of symbolic communication”.
Jacques Derrida is quoted in the same essay, from a 1993 publication – ‘Memoirs of the Blind, the Self Portrait and other Ruins’: “The thought of drawing, a certain pensive pose, a memory of the trait that speculates, as in a dream, about its own possibilities. Its potency always develops on the brink of blindness.”
In the contemporary context, Drawing is often identified as a manifestation of a direct line to the human unconscious … something enigmatic, with a touch of magic … often expressing dark moods. This is a kind of drawing that focuses on reflection rather than observation and emphasises the performative and the speculative over the translation of visual experience. There is a temptation, perhaps, to interpret this as something essentially contemporary; that the perception of Drawing changed somewhere between about 1950 and 1990. Then one comes across quotations from Renaissance writer/artist Giorgio Vasari, discussing disegno (both drawing and design, in Italian, apparently) in 1568 e.g. “… there arises a certain conception and judgement, so that there is formed in the mind that which afterwards, when expressed by the hands is called ‘design’ …”. As I said, these ideas can circle around and around. The course module notes suggest that, in the simplest form, Drawing might be “… leaving a trace of a thoughtful and performative activity …”; and the very first exercise encourages me to think about some unusual drawing activities, temporary drawings, that may have little to do with pencil and paper.
So, my sketchbook now has references to snail drawings and the stains left in a coffee cup, for example. But the image at the top is one of my own temporary drawings – and it might well represent some sort of direct line to my unconscious! Robert Rauschenberg famously requested, in 1953, an original drawing from fellow artist Willem de Kooning, with the express intention of erasing it and presenting the outcome as his own work of art. There is plenty of scope for debate about the pros and cons of what he did, which I don’t intend to explore here. In my case, I took some time to draw in my sketchbook (and it doesn’t matter what I drew, though faint traces remain – another potential characteristic of drawing as a medium) and then erased what I’d drawn. I’ve collected the remains of the erasing activity and fixed them back in the book, inside a transparent ‘wallet’ so that they are both visible and loose. What remains, which can form a new shape every time the page is turned, is, hopefully, “a trace of a thoughtful and performative activity”!
Also maybe time to do some ‘proper’ drawing (tongue firmly in cheek).