The Stories I Tell | A fantastical look at a daily drawing project
Graphite on paper 160 x 518 cm | 63″ x 204″
Initially this drawing was tied to my ideas around the Day-to-Day Aesthetics methodology, meaning the daily, mindful practice of art through action, observation and recording. However after working this way for six months I moved flats and was no longer able to work on it for a minimum of ten minutes a day. The project changed course and rather than a finished piece predominantly about process, it became an embodiment of the original impetus for starting the work: my sense of displacement and struggle with a lack of available space to work. The hallway in my former flat was an expanse of uninterrupted space whose purpose was not, of course, for drawing. There was only about one metre to stand back and assess the piece as it progressed but rather than being frustrated by this, I became excited about how it would look and how it would be read when shown in a spatially unrestrained area. The lack of space to assess such a large drawing became key to the composition and even what areas received more attention.
With no specific starting plan, the piece evolved in specific areas rather than holistically, the left side receiving far more attention than the right, which was closer to the glass entrance door and far less warm. This evolution followed my natural inclination to read from left to right, and so when it came to the last few months of drawing, I worked almost exclusively on the right hand side. In order to continue working on the piece after moving from the flat where it was conceived, it was rolled up, wrapped in plastic and on seven weekends I spent two or three days drawing in a large seminar room on campus. There I was able to step back from it for the first time. The forced close perspective of the hall gave way to the large expanse and with no set horizon, the composition became distorted, like looking through a wide angle lens that produced a mild visual vertigo. At this stage, I realized that I had created an imaginary geographical place, albeit one that made little or no sense. In this place there is a single boat and shrouded in darker graphite strokes, three buildings that are not immediately noticeable. There also appears to be a shoreline, rounded stones, plant life, some winged creatures (or perhaps they are leaves), a suggestion of daylight and of night time, but all this is geographic anachronism with no singular reference point.
On one of the weekends when I was working in the Library Seminar Room, I had the benefit of some feedback from my MFA supervisor, Dr. Daro Montag. I answered some basic questions about intent, the evolving of context of certain elements and what, if any, was the single boat meant to represent. When required to think about a work that is in progress and that has grown organically out of what felt like necessity, new ideas and thoughts spring forward in unexpected ways. I relayed to him that one of my first ideas was to populate the drawing with many boats but that after drawing the outline of the first one, I knew there need only be one. The drawing, after all, was intended as a sort of nest building within a feeling of displacement and while all the organic and natural aspects of the drawing surely were the metaphorical home, the boat had become the self. It was then suggested that for months I had been working on a self portrait -a sprawling, nonsensical, visual endogeny.
Now, in its finished state, it is no longer a mystery unfolding but a rather surprising outcome born from dislocation and frustration. The question I asked at the beginning of this undertaking Can a daily drawing practice provide catharsis or comfort to the displaced artist? has been answered with a resounding Yes.