I am not really good at drawing. I used to be considered to be good at it, at school and I did well at Art and as a kid I drew a lot. But I stopped.
However, it’s clear that Drawing is one of the first and most deeply embedded human acts. The first time the tiny hand takes some kind of stylus and makes a mark. It happens to everyone, everywhere, across history. We do that.
And we all draw. We call it doodling. At work, while listening to a lecture, on the phone. Even tablets and smartphones have drawing programmes (not very good ones: a Biro and an old receipt is more satisfying to draw with).
If you Google “drawing” the images you get tend to be realistic. Using the pen or pencil to recreate the real, often a person. As well, I’m familiar with the great drawings of the past, just as you are. Raphael’s glorious heads (his drawings much better than his paintings); Da Vinci’s wondrous machines and astonishing anatomy; detailed and intricate botanical drawings, weirdly more fascinating than the actual plants; the sensual monsters of Aubrey Beardsley and the harrowing experiences depicted by Kathe Kollwitz.
But drawing as contemporary art is really a puzzle to me. Scanning and invitation sent to me by a London gallery, I saw a photograph of some weak, faint pencil on paper, totally undistinguishable, accompanied by the following passage (an excerpt):
“This most recent series of drawings takes as its starting point, the axonometric grid. Through a process of division and sub-division, [the artist] dismantles the axonometric grid to reveal a series of equally diminishing equilateral triangles. These triangles are employed in a subversive manner by [the artist] to shift the grid away from its original intention – understanding three-dimensional space through a linear form of projection – and instead layers and overlaps the grid to reveal dimensional arrangements constructed from perceived tonal shifts brought about by the relative proximity of one shape to another.”
I am sorry, but I am not going to cross town for this. I am not interested in “dismantling the axonometric grid.” THAT is what I used to do every day in Math class confronted by the gridded notebook, I’d skip to the back pages and demolish the grid by drawing over it, forcing the lines into curves and often sticking a pair of confrontational eyes on top of the whole.
This is a kind of curator’s-wet-dream art, boring and intellectual*. Unengaging. Yes, of course I’d rather go play on my smart phone.
* And I am what would pass in most circles for an intellectual.
This what I think of as a good drawing: