What is Drawing?

Had I not listened to Alison Carlier’s Jerwood Drawing Prize entry (an audio description), I might have included “marks” or “visual” in my definition. However, she blew apart all such ideas. Her drawing does not require information to be acquired through the optic nerve. So more general words, such as “depiction” or “visualisation” seem more apt.

Concomitantly, if the artist’s product need not to be observed with eyes, then it makes sense that the subject need not either. The is a more familiar concept. Everyday we are bombarded with depictions of subjects that have not, and will not, ever exist.

So, if a drawing is a “depiction” in the broadest sense, then its means of production must necessarily also be broad. The arbitrary delineation of drawing and painting, and any distinctions based on tools, techniques or media, is also irrelevant. Broadening the means of production allows for mechanical or manual means, including cameras and digital media.

Similarly, a drawing may be lifted from 2-D space into the third dimension. Thus it is indeed possible to draw with a bundle of sticks. The boundaries of drawing and making then also become blurred, as the artist places her sticks or rips her fabric.

I contend that drawing is a continuum, that actually begins the in the artist’s mind’s eye, before a single mark or action is taken, that may end with the final product, or anywhere along the continuum at the artist’s discretion. It therefore becomes apparent, that the agency and purpose of the artist defines the boundaries of a drawing or depiction.


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