drawing 1: David Austen
drawing 2: Susan Hefuna
drawing 3: Eva Hesse
drawing 4: Richard Serra
above are drawings from the “Abstract Drawing” exhibition curated by Richard Deacon. Drawing 1 : David Austin, Untitled (Blue), 1995, Gouache on paper, 23 x 17 in. Drawing 2: Susan Hefuna, Building, 2009, Ink on layered tracing paper, 19 x 24 in. Drawing 3: Eva Hesse, No title, 1965, Ink on paper, 25 x 19 in. drawing 4: Richard Serra, Untitled, 2009, Paintstick, 9 x 10 in.
I have been reading and looking at the catalogue from an exhibit at the Drawing Room in London in 2014 that British artist Richard Deacon curated titled “Abstract Drawing.” In this exhibition Deacon selected multiple abstract drawings from 30 artists from the early 20th century to present. Several of “my” exceptional women artists of the 20th century whom I am researching are included – the earliest drawings in the exhibit are Swedish “abstractionist” and spiritualist Hilma Af Klint’s sketches from 1906 to 1909. My dear Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings and photographs are included, Brazilian artist Mira Schendel’s drawings are included as well as several of my other favorite women artists – Eva Hesse, Anni Albers and Susan Hefuna. Some of my favorite male artists/drawers are in the exhibit as well – Kazimir Malevich, Sol Lewitt, Anish Kapoor and Richard Serra. There are many contemporary artists/drawers like David Austin with whom I was not familiar – but now I am very excited to learn about their work.
I have never really thought of myself as an abstract artist – more as a conceptual artist. However I have been thinking about what “abstraction” means in my own work as I have been contemplating how to make drawings that are pulled/drawn/withdrawn from the digital images that I took in India of various architectural spaces.
Deacon wrote a wonderful essay for the exhibit and catalogue titled “Transmission, Reception, Noise: Abstract Drawing” in which he analyzes the different drawings in the exhibit through these concepts that are normally associated with the transmission of radio waves and other kind of information systems. I love this conceit as a tool to look at these different artists’ abstract drawings and as a way to think about my own work too. Richard Deacon writes in his essay:
“ In general, abstraction in art seems to belong to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In acknowledgement of this, my selection begins with a sketchbook of 1906-09 by Hilma Af Klint and a Suprematist drawing of 1917-18 by Kazimir Malevich. The Af Klint is wonderful. In these early sketchbooks of hers, before the visionary sources and destination of her inspiration became clear, the drawings contained evidence of an open-eyed attempt to put something down while trying to learn at the same time. Malevich, on the other hand – in the middle of the most profound uprooting of all order in the world around him and a re-evaluation of all value – notated a reorganization of space and time. His was a vision of non-objectivity, in a world (and it is important that a world remained) purged of matter but not of material, and organized around the basic geometries of rectangle, circle and square. The Suprematist composition is a blueprint for the future. If Af Klint is a receiver, then Malevich is a transmitter.”
Deacon also puts Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings and photographs in the category of “transmitter” as he does with Kazimir Malevich. He writes of Mohamedi:
“The underlying premise, and promise, of her work (Mohamedi) is modernist, and her practice is deeply indebted to the abstract in photography. Her drawing can be seen as recording, or perhaps notating, the refraction and partial reflection of light on a surface. The second work (the photographs) consists of three images on sheets of photographic paper. It is the result of the successive masking and exposing of light-sensitive paper, partially developing the print and reworking it, until the final image is generated and fixed.”
Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c. 1970-79, Black and white photograph, 35 x 15 in.
He writes about the concept of “noise” in abstract drawing in relationship to Jackson Pollocks’ drawing in the exhibit:
“The third pole in this configuration of exemplars is the untitled Jackson Pollock drawing of 1951, which, in terms of the transmitter/receiver analogy, would be akin to something like noise in the channel. The work is simply made by dribbling coloured ink onto two sheets of paper, one on top of the other. It is the one underneath that is shown here, the mark-making having twice distanced from the producer: first by being removed from direct contact with the artist’s hand and second by being further filtered by the top piece of paper. What is made is therefore doubly stripped of conscious control and yet, paradoxically, highly intentional.”
Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1951, Ink and gouache on paper, 24 x 39 in.
Anyway I have found it illuminating to look at other artists’ work and my own abstract drawings (and photographs) with Deacon’s analogy of transmission, reception and noise in mind.
I found this great little film about “Abstract Drawing” at the Drawing Center in London that gives a feeling for what looks like a fabulous show: