Drawing Time, the intrinsic temporality of drawing by Andrew Folan

Drawing Time, the intrinsic temporality of drawing by Andrew Folan

Drawing Time prioritises work in which time is intrinsic to its conception. While drawings result from condensing durational factors into singular static images, the synthesis of time and duration are extant and legible in the final outcome. ‘How long did that take?’ is a question arising, when viewing a detailed or labour-intensive drawing. More important than actual production time is the range of decisions made while working, resulting in dynamic, mutable, time conscious and transitionally aligned drawings.

All of the works in this show were produced over periods ranging from hours to months. They result from systematic recordings, successive actions, and – perhaps less accountably – spontaneous projections. The form of each drawing has evolved progressively, while the artist is fully attuned to their subject, simultaneously reviewing and developing their drawings.

We don’t see drawing to the extent that we see according to drawing. Each line has a beginning, a progression and an end. We may not have witnessed the actual progression, but we can comprehend its progress. The line has become a series of positions that incrementally align to occupy space and time. In the field of optics, the progression of a point and its transformation into a line – as it traces across our view – is known as persistence of vision. In drawing, the progressively extending line represents duration. Every action unfolds in the artist’s mind, before finding its pencil point of contact, vectorising into and beyond the drawing surface. Sequentiality is calibrated within the context of the before and after. Finished drawings can be deconstructed – mentally rewinding their sequence of production.

In a blend of swift and carefully considered marks, Donald Teskey’s study of organic depth in Castlemorris Woods is rendered in a sequence of lines and sfumato effects, which – in spite of their density – invite the viewer to enter the scene, and untangle the mass of information along with the artist. The contrasting deeply rooted shrubs and their slender airborne fronds have acquired the illusion of motion. Some lines spring actively from the surface, while others are weighed down, like the earth itself. With carefully placed miniature circles and broken floral enclosures – that seem to have blossomed while we look – the ultimate marks are musical in their considered notation. Within its changing rates of production, nothing is overstated. The artist is seen to be making sense of his subject. Every mark earns its keep.

Dorothy Smith seeks complex objects and situations, with which she delights in deconstructing and reconstructing her material. In Marker the subject – which she describes as a ‘found sculptural moment’ – is ostensibly a modernist tape drawing, made unconsciously by construction workers in the course of their daily duties. In fencing off a hazardous site, they have set out the constraints of an improvised safety barrier. Setting out with a specific interest in systems, and while making sense of this structure, Smith mentally unravels and untangles the tape, before remaking the barrier as a drawing; emphasising its graphic and conceptual nature, redefining its structural space and physical tension. Once again, the viewer is compelled to follow the artist in her quest.

Mick O’Dea is fascinated by humanity in all its forms. His focus is on Irish political history. His two portraits The White Snake and The Republican Outfitter stem from his research into the 1922 Bloody Sunday killings. The two portraits represent a republican prisoner and his interrogator and murderer. In varying intensities of charcoal – used sparingly and with deliberation – O’Dea draws our attention to the eyes of both the interrogator and his victim. Caught in their fixed gaze, we become implicated. O’Dea’s historical delving and superb humanising of the two men, awakens lost time and returns lost life to the gallery of human conscience. We are compelled to adopt the role of mediator (and / or juror) gazing into the symbolic depth of the drawings.

The rate of production has a bearing on the drawing’s outcome. A line will always retain something of its speed of execution. Depending on the artist’s intentions and resulting from hand and eye coordination, information processing, and from the process itself – decisions are often made ‘on the fly’. Drawing is arguably more intuitive than other imaging methods. A pencil requires a vigorous application and significantly more instances of surface contact than a paintbrush. The softness of charcoal or conté requires a ‘one shot’ approach, that eschews hesitancy and has little time for deliberation. These intense working methods call for rapid decisions, or perhaps no decisions, relying intuitively on the immediacy of the moment. Time spent drawing is always a factor, whether it’s an artist’s ability to capture a moving figure in a matter of seconds, or a need to spatially historicise information.

Pat Harris has an uncanny ability to trap the transcendent qualities of the Mayo coast. In Charraig Mhór he is concerned with the subject and its ability to interject with his stream of consciousness. His charcoal drawn sea-stacks are neither timeless nor temporal. Instead, they determine their own stubborn occupancy of his drawings. For Harris, there comes a point when the balance of reference shifts from the subject to the drawing and the drawing becomes a thing in itself. Despite the urgency and density of his strong gestural marks, the sequentiality of his decision making retains its clarity and sense of purpose.

Drawing with even greater speed, Una Sealy captures her figures in the act of dance. In Flight Sealy fails to keep up with the acrobatic gyrations of her models and working through a series of methods of extension and connection, renders new forms that morph from a multiplicity of transient options. Gravity is minimised and the figures pause in midair, suspended or floating with nothing to hold onto but themselves. As the drawing progresses, the emphasis shifts from intention to extension. In the generation of new morphologies of human and post-human form, the drawing proceeds from itself, resolving and reinventing its impossibility.

In a contrasting and significantly less immediate approach, Gary Coyle’s supersized portrait Magus holds our attention with the sheer intensity and range of drawn marks, emphasising the human subject and his adornment in an uncanny sartorial fusion. Coyle’s self-portrait has transformed into the iconic rock musician Alice Cooper, but the real star is the drawing itself; its descriptive methods, its intensity, gravity and overbearing darkness. Charcoal marks enliven the surface, dwelling on the density of the glossy fur-felted hat, before taking flight with the fly-away hair. The facial muscles – barely imagined – play with a smile, belying the passive mask of resistance. Most significantly, time is encapsulated in the lengthy and reflective working period.

A blank sheet of paper is timeless until the act of drawing restarts the flow of time. The pencil making contact with the paper commences the process. From that point onwards the drawing reveals the history of its making, it becomes indexical in its sequentiality, depth and structure. There is a sliding scale between drawing as a thought process and drawing as active thinking. In the former, consideration is given to the subject before commencing, and in the latter the action of drawing is cognitive; the progression of marks and lines are put to work, analysing and ultimately synthesising the subject. Although drawings can be imbued with a visual cadence – that is readable – drawing is more aligned with touch and physical interactivity than with speech.  Given that the component of touch is limited to the drawing implement – the roles of the haptic and / or inner body compass are involved more than the primary senses.  Seeing, knowing, understanding and remapping, combine to provide knowledge of the subject, that is readily translated with or without looking at the subject itself. Analysis in the creative process is not limited to ways of seeing – it includes a range of production methods that remap time while working.

In Eilis O’Connell’s sculptural drawing Intowards the skin-like surface of the jesmonite is tattooed with lines that follow the geometry of the structure, before diverging into an array of individual adornments.  The dot-encoded lines adhere to the form, break rank across its surface – finding new and possible pathways, before rejoining the original flow. Each line seems conscious of the territory and aware of its infinitesimal, yet essential contribution to the whole. More important than direction or intensity – the lines reiterate the fact of their constant fracture, their broken continuity. Reminiscent of human migration, biological flow and neural networks, they relate their story through the vitality of their making; the endless plodding, stopping for a short breath, before setting off with renewed intention.

In a practice that reanimates her protest-marching subjects, Joy Gerrard graphically generates the crowds that gather in public demonstrations. In Vigil /Protest Scotland Yard the humanity of the crowd stands out in contrast to the geometry of the buildings. In making her political and emotively charged ink drawings, Gerard lays the paper horizontally on the work table, and in a practice that emulates the drones and helicopters that recorded the march, she hovers over the scene, progressively locating and inserting hundreds of individual marchers. Single brush-marks represent people, ranging from active participants to tentative onlookers. In a strategic amalgam that coagulates into a dynamic flow of humanised ink, time is made material.

Belonging to a series of works dealing with bodily transformation, Alice Maher’s drawing Matrix symbolises the act of creativity itself, as the woman’s skull opens and the virtual stuff of thought floats and folds into dynamic new possibilities. Referencing the ancient Greek legend of the Gordian Knot, we are invited to untangle the complexities of the artist’s imagination and to follow the rope to its conclusion.  In a fitting tribute to the act of making, this remarkable image presents the stuff of thought in a progressive and emerging materiality.  The viewer is invited to journey with the artist into the drawing’s depth and ultimately, to untie the Gordian knot.

The study of the human figure through drawing provides a specific durational challenge. Visit any life drawing studio and a sense of transference from the model to the artist is apparent. You can see how the pose is adopted by the artist, by mentally situating themselves within the field of the subject, and by combing prior knowledge, proprioception and muscle memory, they emulate the model’s stance. Many artists draw what they look at, but don’t always look at what they draw.  They become physically and mentally implicated in capturing the subject and this happens with a body dynamic, closer to the gestures of sign language than to the spoken or written word. Posture is translated to gesture, enabling descriptive actions, that find their humanistic summation through drawing.

This is apparent, even when the figure is standing still, as in James Hanley’s two drawings Life Room Nude (Des) & Life Room Nude (Francis).  The two male figures set up a dialogue of contrasting postures, relaxed and assertive, detached and attentive. A kind of postural re-enactment has taken place, before the artist fully understands the subject and is equipped to transfer this knowledge to drawing. In Hanley’s case the respective poses are not just what he has seen and understood, but has adopted while drawing. Standing individuals do not generally evoke a sense of narrative, but these drawings tell their own stories. From the forward thrust, the supreme confidence, the clasped hands, to the weight on the balls of their feet, a sense of stillness has seldom been so protracted.

Brendan Earley’s drawing is not derived from actual reality, although it captures the phenomenology of things; his body, his physical motion, his sense of proprioception, the mechanics of his limbs, and the entropic nature of the multiple markers he uses while working.  Chart of Space grows and evolves with constant reference to its own evolution, while Earley maintains self-reflexivity throughout the production. In this organic form of drawing there are rules he must follow, although nothing is preconceived. Earley is a journeyman and he never loses sight of his immediate objective. What happens at the paper’s surface, is a cartography of the mind – an active mind, in its control of the human body.

Before making her series of wing drawings One Flew East one Flew West Magnhild Opdøl blackens the paper by densely overworking the entire surface with a graphite pencil.  She then sets about erasing the graphite, until she achieves a suitable background within which to make her drawings. The surface is reminiscent of the microwave radiation from outer-space, that once haunted our TV screens. In the shimmering intensity of her meticulous erasing, we can almost see the shadows of her hands at work. The underlying assurance is for the possibility of flight. It is into (as opposed to onto) this surface that she draws her wings.  With an emphasis on the wingtip – the greater part of the bird left unseen – we can focus on the mechanics of flight; the individual feathers that slide, tilt and turn, taking possession of the thickness and dimensionality of the over-worked and synthesised air.

Directing the viewer’s progression through a structured montage of related or disparate images, is a method many artists use to expand durational effect. In strong contrast with the passive observation entailed in watching motion cinema, the viewer is forced to move physically in relation to, or mentally within the static artwork. Linear or non-linear sequence in still-image productions compels the viewer to journey through the artwork. This unfolding of imagery results in a more dynamic and time dependent interpretation of the subject. Books are specific to this endeavour and will enable interactivity while conforming to structured sequence.

Aideen Barry’s dynamic and largely performative practice is underpinned by drawing. The sequentiality provided by her concertina books is an appropriate way to articulate her socio-political concerns. Books contain information that is generally hidden – but is there when we choose to look for it. Barry made the hand-drawn book Fort Barry while on an artist’s residency at Fort Barry in San Francisco. She became fascinated by the subterranean Nike Missile bunkers that lay ominously beneath the tranquil and scenic surface. Drawing for her is an interpretive action. In her process the artist shifts from wondering what does this mean? to asking what does this do? and ultimately how can I process this knowledge? Containing discrete units of linked information, her books enable isolated (page-by-page) instances and facts to grow into sequences – enabling progressive and persuasive presentations.

In an inversion of romantic theories of the sublime, David Eager Maher finds the awe-inspiring in the domestic trappings of family life. In All the Things we Have Made he achieves this by attending to patterned objects and precious things with a desire to capture their sumptuous beauty, simultaneously subjecting the greatness of nature to a gentle, monochromatic rendering. In a montage of disparate subjects, the scenes seem to have moved – like tectonic plates – in relation to each other, before settling into the tense world of a temporary fixity. The clues that remain, range from the art historical, to scientific and political references. Although time appears to stand still, we find ourselves reliving time, retracing the scenic route to the target of an atomic bomb.

The curiously gender fluid, transsexual world of Kieran Moore’s broken narratives, is captured in The Nameless Offspring, 2023 and other works.  As the subjects parade into view, their bodies act as masking devices, hiding and revealing each other in an endlessly possible sequence of clones and variants.  For Moore this method enables his directing the protagonists to diverge, divulge, display and ultimately engender a range of new identities. This is an open-ended world of possibilities. Nothing is static. Not a drawn line is left where you might expect to find it. The kitchen-table surgery of Today the Ritual Brings no Comfort seems to make everything feasible, as a group of ‘Gendernauts’ meet for reassignment. There is a calm, etherial sense that the process is passive, ongoing and indeterminate.

Despite its function in representation, a drawing is always something new; an independent image that has been transformed reflexively throughout its production. The artists selected for this exhibition have taken account of events that unfold while drawing and their understanding of ambience, space and time in relation to the subject, enables the fusion of both fixed and transient elements into a single artwork. They deploy methods that progressively analyse their subjects, resulting in intensive and extensive productions that captivate the viewers, compelling them to join with the artists – in reliving the intrinsic temporality of drawing.

Andrew Folan 2023








Your product has been successfully added to your Cart. View Cart HERE

Skip to content