The Resilience of Drawing: Symposium

Text by Su Bonfanti, MA Drawing
Images by Andrew Youngson, MA Drawing

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On 11 May, the Banqueting Hall at UAL Chelsea hosted a symposium exploring the resilience of drawing in the Post Digital age. The event marked the re-launch of The Centre for Drawing: Wimbledon and a new online archive of the Centre’s previous activities. Tania Kovats, who chaired the event, suggested that the flourishing of the Centre illustrated ‘why we are continuing to talk about drawing’.

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Angela Kingston, who set up the Centre for Drawing in 2000, talked about how the idea of the Centre emerged from the drawing practices she had encountered as a student, an artist and later a curator, through the 1980s and 90s. It was part of an re-evaluation of drawing as a practice in its own right.

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Rachel Whiteread said that drawing helped her to think, to organise her mind and to disorganise her mind. Although she is popularly known as a sculptor, she asserted that she made no distinction between her practices. Some of her drawings are directly related to planning sculptures, but they have a life and quality of their own, as she uses different papers and different mark making materials to evoke the materiality of the eventual product.

One of the co-founders of Drawing Room, Mary Doyle, explained that it was the only public, non-profit exhibition space devoted to contemporary international drawing in the UK and Europe. She illustrated a range of work from past exhibitions, including a solo show by Monika Grzymala in 2009; the cross-media show Drawing: Sculpture in 2013; and Marking Language, also in 2013, a collaboration with the Drawing Centre in New York. A special feature of the Drawing Room is the Outset Study, a free open-access research hub with a collection of over 2,500 books. Tania Kovats mentioned that Drawing Room were in discussion about housing the physical archive of material from the CfD.

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Hillary Mushkin, Research Professor of At and Design at CalTech, focussed on Incendiary Traces, an on-going project investigating the role of landscape imagery in international conflict. She leads visits by artists to locations where technology, such as GPS, visualisation or control systems, is made or used. She suggested artists could use their power of observation at close range to challenge the dominance of the increasingly distant and de-humanized military gaze.

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Finally, Tim Knowles talked about drawing as the mapping or tracing of movement. In many of his works, he creates the conditions for capturing movements, such as tree branches in the wind, but then relinquishes control over the process, creating space for the potential of the unknown. His current project is a tri-hulled sailing boat that can’t be steered: it will take you on a journey of discovery, ‘at the mercy of the wind until you hit shore’.

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The Resilience of Drawing was funded by the CCW Graduate School and supported by the UAL Postgraduate Community.

For more images from the event- see the Resilience of Drawing gallery