REVIEW: Reading the Space: Contemporary Australian Drawing 4
On 01, Sep 2013 | In exhibitions | By marywp
Reading the Space: Contemporary Australian Drawing #4 is the fourth in a series of exhibitions in Australia, the UK and finally in New York as a result of an initiative developed by curator Dr. Irene Barberis, who developed the project as an aspect of her “international studio practice.”[i] The exhibition that recently closed at the Studio School in New York, in collaboration with Melbourne’s Global Centere for Drawing, an alternative exhibition space founded by Barberis on the writings of Conceptual draftsman Sol Le Wittt, is loosely grouped into three chapters, or themes: “Reading the Space: ‘Other’ Meanings”; “All Writing is Drawing”; and “The Space of Writing, What is That?”[ii]
The eighty-eight Australian artists in the exhibition benefit from remaining by and large unknowns to the New York art world, allowing the drawings themselves, and Barberis’s thesis to come across more powerfully than the result of an exhibition turned name spotting game. At the Studio School, the installation holds DIY-charm, the drawings are unframed, attached with clips along a pair of delicate red twine sightlines along the upper third of the gallery walls in the small adjoining galleries at the Studio School (the building was the original home of the Whitney Museum of American Art).
The sheer variety of the works on paper in the exhibition provide an immediate visual confirmation of Barberis’ thesis—that the verb as well as the noun of drawing is far more expansive than what we have been conditioned to assume. Watercolor sketches, painterly architectural renderings, collages, faux press ads figure studies, appropriation and the written word; there is little left unexplored by the artists, who all worked independently on their contributions before mailing them by Australian post to the curator. Rather than suggesting an overly broad thesis or the lack of editing ability, the very scope of the work supports Barberis’s concept of a process-based “space of drawing” that expands the medium’s potential past the resultant object. The exhibition itself shifts into a single immersive installation within which one can encounter, separately the multiple heterotopias created by each individual 14 x 10 paper. For example, Jon Cattapan’s Atonal Group Performance (n.d), a colorful mixed media on paper suggests, with his title an aspect of the work beyond the physicality of the drawing. The ability for the drawing to function as a medium for temporal communication, such as performance, or speech is supported by the exhibition’s repeated connections between the act of drawing the that of language. “Reading the Space: ‘Other’ Meanings” and “All Writing is Drawing” result in an exhibition heavily populated with works the combine image and text, including Andrew Antoniou’s Translation ‘All is Drawing’ (n.d). The collaboration of words an image in this piece, as in dozens of other drawings in the exhibition, supports a diffusion of the two means of communication. By emphasizing the drawing only as a starting point for the exponential concepts expanding from it, the exhibition supports a similarly open, process-based take on writing, so that the articulation of thought through language (writing) is in and of itself a drawing. Helen Geir’s Perspective (n.d), without its nearly fluorescent outlines of could almost belong in a fifteenth-century treatise, is a trope example of single-point perspective, a straight avenue lined on either side by a row of tress. By applying the classical rules of conveying depth on a two-dimensional plane, Geier muses on the fragile divisions between media with the lines “if all writing is drawing, then perspective is the very soul of painting.” By translating drawing from object to place, the medium is expanded from the summation of marks on a paper to a method for communicating meaning and experience. For her, and throughout the exhibition the drawing is a “jumping off point” from the real into the space of writing.
[i] Dr. Irene Barberis quoted on “Irene Barberis” Metasenta http://irenebarberis.com/home.html (accessed August 24, 2013).
[ii] The second two titles are derived from two essays by French theorists Serge Tisseron and Michael Butor. See M. Butor and N. Guynn, “Bricolage: An Interview With Michel Butor” Yale French Studies no. 84 (1994): 17-26; Serge Tisseron All Writing is Drawing: The Spatial Development of the Manuscript in Yale French Studies 84 (1994): 29-42.