November 21, 2011

Graham Nickson on pictoral space


Notes from a New York Studio School drawing marathon in 2008. I find Graham Nickson's way of thinking about space to be so helpful. Here is a tidbit from one of the daily crits:

Let’s focus on 2 drawings: both treat the figure as part of a landscape; one’s an urban landscape, one's a pastoral--but we're traveling over the form, traveling with the charcoal, the charcoal becoming one with the experience of traveling.

Notice the dialogue between surface space and the geometry of depth. Here [referring to the drawings] we travel more slowing through the drawing because we have to swim through the water before we get to a solid object. She’s thinking about space.

Here we have strong surface geometry, but here shape is not describing form. The form is not held firmly by the space around it, not conceived by the pressure around it

Make the space hold the form!

Don’t let the deep space lead you out of the drawing! If you invite your friend to dinner and they come in the front door and walk out the back door—you won’t be satisfied with the evening. You want them to walk around, look around, sit down, rest, eat, talk.

So in the drawing you want deep space to bounce us back. Cezanne always taps us on the shoulder and reminds us that this is a drawing. He brings us back to the pictorial space so we don’t leave by the back door.

Here the shapes call us through the space; whereas here we stay on the surface. Dark marks have to keep their position in space. In other words don’t let them go into galactic space—these dark marks make a hole

Here we’re getting a crowded space, but not a relational space.

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These studio notes are scraps of poetry and ideas that feed my work as a painter. I hope they establish a bit of context for the paintings and my intention in making them. Whatever I paint, I’m trying to create some space for us to sit with the questions that are not meant to be answered.

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