Summer 2007 - In the wake of Copenhagen

(1)These drawings followed in the wake of Copenhagen. Making prints there, between 21-28 June, required endurance and concentration, in the extreme.

This I transported to Connecticut. In my summer studio, positioned upon a square rubber mat (an idea also ‘lifted’ from Copenhagen), I picked up where I had left of. And I kept in mind, too, the way I had integrated into my work on the copperplate exactly what I’d observed in the proofing: on paper, I continued to square up my body, and my sheet on the table; to keep consistent pressure on my graphite; and to roll through my sheet as smoothly as possible.(2) 

So smooth had I become that the excellent alignment of these newest forms surprised me. Comparing them to my earlier ‘figures’ on view at the Tang Museum, (3) so charming with their exaggerated lean, I wondered at this difference of stance.

I soon recognised it to be – quite directly – a marking out of my change of stance: in Autumn 2005, in order to take my longer lines more gracefully through my sheet, I had opened up my posture at the table.(4) Since then, I stand with my right leg striding forward, and the left leg poised behind. Always upright and alert, I move more freely through the sheet, while drawing out these ever-straighter forms.

NOTE: There will, however, always be a lean to my figures. Guided only by natural forces, they cannot but follow “the path taken by the soul of [this] dancer.”(5)

(1) Between 21 and 28 June, 2007, I made 32 new dry-points in Copenhagen with Niels Borck-Jenser. The title of the suite is SLOW LEARNER and it is published by Jean-Yves Noblet Contemporary Prints, New York.

(2) See SLOW LEARNER, my text on this project.

(3) From 18 May to 12 August, my work featured in ‘Alumni Invitational 2’, Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. This selection of drawings included work made between 1993 and 2005.

(4) See studio jotting, ‘The New York Tour, Autumn 2005’.

(5) Heinrich von Kleist, ‘On the Marionette Theatre’ (1810), translated by Idris Parry, in Essays on Dolls (London: Syrens, 1994). Also see Linda Karshan and Marilyn McCully in McCully, Measure Without Measure, pp. 55–59

The New York Tour - Autumn 2005

I arrived in N.Y. like a dancer on tour with my body, my mind, and choreography in-scribed. (1) But the ‘theatre’ was new, as was the stage to be ‘set,’ and so certain adjustments were made. Standing upright and alert at my new table, or stage, I quickly adjusted my stance: “Every movement in the studio must be [graceful].”(2) And “all true grace is economical”.(3)

My movements had become less than graceful – even cramped – as my short upper-torso was not long enough to see my now longer lines through in one arc.(4) So I resumed a stance first taken in July 2004 when, also presented with a new table/ stage, I secured my position by placing one foot behind the other, gaining extension and spring in my moves. (5)

Now my ‘swing’ has become more like rock’n’roll: I begin by rocking backwards, then forwards, or downwards, then upwards, through the first two repetitions of the line. Repetitions three and four are yet more dynamic as I roll right through the centre of my line.

That first line is performed ‘on the flat,’ as it were: both flat-footed, but also flat-leaded as I hold my pencil sideways, thus producing a flatish, widish mark. Then, rising onto my toes, ‘en pointe’ over the work, I also lift my pencil point to a loftier position on the sheet. Thus poised and concentrated, I proceed to bisect that first line. Just as Apelles claimed to do.(6) “There are so few [movements], but so many variations.” (7) The variety is assured by the subtle shifts in choreography, according to my intuitive sense. Judgement follows, measured always with those compasses in the eyes: that I may receive what I have brought forth, and “so bring forth as [my] intuitive sense aspires to receive”.

1. My choreography is not only written, or in-scribed: it is also sounded, or scored into my being. This is what I listen to, and what I mark out “exactly as it is scored” (John Cage, advising Christian Wolf; see studio jottings, ‘Selected Jottings, Autumn 2004’, 6/11/04).

2. Bruce Nauman: “Every movement in the studio must be artistic.” Mapping the Studio, Tate Modern, 2004.

3. Samuel Beckett. See studio jotting, ‘Selected Jottings, Autumn 2004’ (25/11/04).

4. See my description in the studio jotting ‘Summer 2005: The ORLO, Natural Forces, and Giving Up the Notion of Convergence’. Photographs also bear this out.

5. See studio jotting, ‘Flashing Conviction, Summer 2004’ (20/07/04).

6. According to ancient lore, the Roman artist Apelles proved his superiority over his rivals by his ability to bisect their lines. Thus he’d leave a mark of his presence: “Tell them Apelles was here”.

7. See studio jotting, ‘Flashing Conviction, Summer 2004’ (21/07/04).


The ORLO, Natural Forces, and Giving Up the Notion of Convergence - Summer 2005

‘Kicking off’ with the ORLO – that extreme limit, or outline, of my pattern / figure / form, the subject of this summer’s work has shifted between the ORLO to the GRID and back again. According to my intuitive sense.

But the ORLO has been the most dominant form, showing – if not proving – that length, width, and quality of line are enough to describe the entire body. (1) So long as the ORLO be precise. Natural forces have returned, thanks to a change in posture, necessitated by the expansion of the form. (2) In consequence, my more plastic, rhythmic lines refused to converge: drawing line upon trace, as had been my custom, now required too much will. (The trace leaned in one direction, while the line wanted, naturally, to lean in the other). So by giving up the notion of convergence, and letting each line fall as it would, the drawings recovered their former ‘swing’. They could ‘flash conviction’(3) on the viewer, of their human experience. According to her intuitive sense.(4)

1. Leon Battista Alberti. See studio jottings, ‘Selected Jottings and Reflections, January– June 2005’ (23/03/05).

2. Now bent at the waist, reaching out and over my trace in order to pick up the topmost point of my trace. By simply swinging up and back to my standing posture, the drawn line flowed naturally, in line with the forces of gravity.

3. George Eliot. See studio jotting, ‘Summer Jottings: Flashing Conviction, July–August 2004’.

4. Many thanks to Tommy Karshan, for alerting me to Schiller’s definition of the play drive: “[…] will endeavour so as to receive as if it had brought forth, and so bring forth as the intuitive sense aspires to receive”. See Schiller’s Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man. Or, in the words of Plotinus, Ennead IV 6.2–3: “The mind affirms something not contained within impression: this is the characteristic of a power – within its allotted sphere to act”. Or, as David Wiggins puts it, quoting Plotinus: “The mind gives radiance to the objects of sense out of its own store”. A jotting that I wrote on 1 August 2005 also helps to illustrate what I mean: “I am bent at the waist, over the page, arm (with graphite) extended to the top of the [trace]. Lifting now from the waist, the line is drawn over and through the sheet in a smooth movement… guided always by natural forces. (So that the viewer, too, might straighten up in response to the good work).”