Wednesday, February 2, 2011


A few weeks ago I wrote about a new series of photo work entitled "Here." At the end of that post I mentioned a series of drawings that has been an on/off again project for the last twenty years. I included a photo of a drawing very similar to this:

This is what I wrote about the drawings:

When I make these drawings, I am conscious of my hand's movement. It is similar to the mechanics required for writing. Indeed, I typically work from left to right, and have on occasion filled a page with row after row of calligraphy-like markings. No doubt muscles remember legal pads. And while the marks otherwise and often resemble outlines of a landscape, they retain the basic bare-lined structure of handwriting. In light of remarks I have made above about formal additions of either new marks or word placements in images, it seemed appropriate that were I to try and do the same with these drawings, I should use a yellow hi-liter.

I don't pretend to come to any conclusions about any of these pieces. I suspect that such is far from forthcoming, if ever, as I continue working in this manner. At this point, however, I can offer some explanation that may help both the reader and me toward that end.

The drawings were still on my mind when I visited my dear friend, Lisa Radon, an artist and writer whose eye and mind I greatly admire. I showed her some I had made in a little notebook I carry, and her response was very positive, especially when she saw these:

Last weekend I received an email from Lisa directing me to a blog she thought I might find interesting, as some of the art catalogued there reminded her of my little sketches. Not so surprising, really, as there is little art created in this world that does not have close associations with some other art. Add to that the affinity my drawings share with calligraphy and pictographic languages, both elements I already recognized, and a "school" or genre called Asemic writing only escaped me because of my relative isolation and corresponding lack of curiosity. 

Nevertheless, I was intrigued, and went on to share the link with a couple other writers. I would be remiss if I did not mention that one wrote back to tell me that Asemic writing reminded him of the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues. Indeed.

In that same email from Lisa, she encouraged me to expose these drawings to a wider audience, advise from which I derive a certain amount of satisfaction despite a lingering hesitancy now that I am aware of a dialogue about such work — a dialogue I have yet to engage, and one in which I am uncertain I belong.

Still, such ambivalence has rarely prevented me from throwing out feelers in a controlled environment, meaning that I feel comfortable enough to subject my readers to the drawings while also using this space to work through nascent ideas. So without further ado...

The first of the above two is very 'landscapey' or figurative. The second, while containing those same elements, has hints of writing much in the manner of Chinese or Japanese pen and ink drawings. This is a formal device I have used for many years, largely to provide a balance to the drawing. Yet, I have been known to let it become the subject of drawings:

While each columnar element is unique and carries a similar flow as all of my mark-making, there is a rigidity that is so much like writing it is difficult to make other associations. I wonder if this is too restrictive in its 'meaning'. Which brings me back to:

I find it a little odd to be writing about a drawing process that I have considered to be somewhat automatic. However, it is also clear to me that once I decided to add the yellow hi-liter marks to otherwise free-flowing drawings that I was organizing (proper diction still escapes me) the marks just as one would do while reading a text. This seems most likely the conceptual balance I should pursue.


Memphis MOJO said...

This must be what it looks like to you when I write about bridge.

Bill Schwartz said...

I'm reminded of an amazing piece you did on an blank index card you did while working as a security guard years (if I recall correctly, which I still have). As always, amazing; glad to see you working on your art.

Harpreet Khara said...

Hello Patrick,
I think you should continue and see where this goes.
It reminds me of the sort of free-associative drawing which is something Jung investigated in his work on mandalas.

bastinptc said...

@MM - Yep, esp. the hands graphics.

@Bill - Thanks for stopping by, old friend. Green index card? I remember I did a couple hundred of them on 4x6 cards.

@HK - At one point I was familiar with Jung. I'll give it a look.

Anonymous said...

I am familiar with the technique of automatic writing.

[Scat, be-bop, parallax, propolis, acropolis, necropolis, corrupt police, yeah.]

It was used to plumb, or die trying, the depths of psyche.:)

I am reminded of the art of calligraphy and a delightful book by the title of Voltaire's Calligraphist.

I wonder if you can push this technique farther. Writing is a door, often closed, but usually recognizable as such.


bastinptc said...

Aki - Reasonable observations. And more to consider.