Drawing a parallel with film

The impact of cinema and digital media on sketching and illustration is the theme of UCC’s Motion Capture exhibition, says Tina O’Sullivan

THE autumn exhibition at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, explores the relationship between drawing and the moving image. The exhibition, Motion Capture, is curated by Matt Packer, curator of exhibitions and projects, and Ed Krcma, lecturer in the history of art, and editor of Enclave Review. The show was launched by Seán Rainbird, the new director of the National Gallery of Ireland.

Motion Capture looks at work from the mid-20th century onwards. There are 12 artists in the show, and each has a different creative process. Lithographic plates, by Henri Matisse, which he referred to as “the cinema of my sensibility”, are on show in partnership with the Musée Matisse in France.

Pierre Bismuth’s work is being shown in Ireland for the first time and the exhibition is also the Irish premiere of works by Tacita Dean, William Kentridge and Dennis Oppenheim.

“One point raised in Motion Capture is ‘what is drawing’s relationship with technology’?” says Mr Krcma. “When you have the arrival of photography or film or digital media, how do those new technologies impact on our perception of what drawing is? I think that drawing looks different depending on what you compare it with. If you compare it with painting or sculpture or writing or dancing, it looks different. One of the premises in this exhibition was ‘what would it be if you took film and drawing and moving image and put them together’? What kinds of identities are thrown up then?”

“Another aspect is the relationship between movement and statist. Both film and drawing are composed of still, discreet things, but both share a mobility. Film is just composed of static shots, which are then animated by the projector operators to move. Drawing is, again, composed of discreet marks, but as you look at drawings, your eye is constantly moving across, following a line — so that is not a static process. Drawing is a record of an activity. Drawn line is the record of the movements of a body, of a hand. Those kinds of ideas of time are fore-grounded when you put drawing and film together.”

Susan Morris, a London-based artist, has two types of work in Motion Capture. One is non-traditional drawing, where Morris works with qualities of line to make a process-driven image using a plum-line similar to those used on building sites.

“To create a plumb-line drawing, I hammer in a nail as I unreel the plumb-bob, which has a chamber filled with chalk and flick it,” says Morris. “I try to make a line. I want to let go of control and let the line draw itself. I didn’t want to deal with any aesthetic intentions. The idea was always to make a perfect line, a string mark, but then the string itself has its own nature. Sometimes it snaps, it has flaws in it, so sometimes you have other kinds of marks. You have vertical lines that change in density and, sometimes, you see more horizontal drawing. I was interested in there being an involuntary mark. But there was still something going on in my body that these drawings couldn’t contain. That’s when I found out about the motion-capture studio and took the project there.”

Morris wore reflectors when she began drawing in a motion-capture studio. The reflections were picked up and recorded by the studio equipment as she drew, so the movements were controlled and repetitive. The data was used to make printed images. Three of these works are featured in Motion Capture and they depict, through masses of fine line, the tract of movement made by Morris in the motion-capture studio, from different vantage points.

South African artist William Kentridge became known internationally in the late 1990s. He has made animated film, by drawing with charcoal, since 1989. The latest in his Drawing for Projection series, Other Faces, is featured in Motion Capture and has not been seen in Ireland previously. The films are concerned with the South African socio-political situation.

“1989 was quite an important year in South Africa, when the intention to disband apartheid was announced,” says Mr Krcma “The series was started then and continued until recently. It’s an attempt by Kentridge to try to work through the problems and consequences of apartheid; history and memories were his themes. It was obviously a very fraught political time. He is engaged with contemporary politics, but what he says is that he doesn’t want his art to be an illustration of a political situation, as you would get with photo-journalism, which is pictures used to illustrate a historical event. He wants there to be something in the work itself that detaches it a little bit from being a straightforward illustration.

“The process Kentridge uses involves a big sheet of paper on the wall, on which he makes marks in charcoal. Then, he goes back and takes a couple of frames on his film camera and returns to the drawing and erases a bit, goes back, takes more photos, and re-draws a bit. It’s like animation, except with conventional animation you might have thousands of drawings for one take. Here, you’ve got one drawing, which is constantly erased and redrawn so, if you like, the whole memory and history is in what you are seeing.”

Brian Fay is a Dublin-based artist who uses drawing to investigate the aging of art-work and film. A series of six digital print drawings derived from the film, One Week, by Buster Keaton, illustrate the deterioration in the movie reel documented by Fay.

“My work is based mainly in drawing and it is trying to look at ideas of recording time through drawing,” says Mr Fay. “A lot of my work has been drawing the cracked patterns of the paintings, and then taking the original image away and you’re left with almost like a spider like pattern. Paintings, as a starting point, are always perceived to be kind of timeless, the cracks and damage can be taken out of them by conservation. I’m interested in looking at the dirt and the cracking, and at how the image is cleaned and how that affects the time of the painting that we see.

“The work from the Glucksman sprung out of the idea: well, if I’m doing these still images like paintings, what would it be like to do it with the moving image?

“I’ve always liked Keaton, so I began to look at his short films and I got very taken with one called One Week, mainly because, initially, it referred to time. To think about drawing as a still image has one set of readings, and drawing as an animation or moving thing has another set of readings. I thought it might be interesting to put the two together and, hopefully, both will think about ideas of time.”

* Lines of Thought: Drawing symposium 10am – 4pm, Thursday, Oct 18, 2012. Motion Capture runs until November 4.


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