Drawing the Gap Paper 1 - 2000 words

Drawing the Gap

In this inquiry into the visual qualities of our physical surroundings and everyday experience, I will examine moments of change, and of energy and a viewer’s response through:
Looking at the connections between seeing and drawing
How we respond to looking
How this response is a constituent of abstract work and essential to an individual viewer
And begin to demonstrate that:
If an abstract drawing is made about itself and if it does not represent something known but is formed purely from its process of making, then is this drawing real?
Is a reflection both an image and an object?
And how is it that the image then also becomes a thing?

I begin with the last statement in Stephen Farthing’s essay ‘Dirtying the Paper’.

“Five hundred years after Leonardo made his deluge drawings, each one still contains information that remains fresh, raw and undigested, something that is difficult to believe will ever be said of his paintings”. (Farthing, 2005, p.43)

Leonardo da Vinci’s deluge drawings contain information from the close study of things and words that surround him such as nature, elements, physics and effects of storms and the wrath of gods. Some of these were never seen and untranslatable by many.

Leonardo Deluge, The beginning 1517
He searched for scientific knowledge through rigorous drawing and detailed observation, revealing visible patterns in air, weather and energy.

“The mind of a painter must be like a mirror, which always changes to the colour of the thing that is in front of it and is filled with as many images as there are things before it”. (Leonardo quoted by Goldscheider, 1952)
He was able to merge and reform his findings in order to manifest unknown possibilities. An archive of his Deluge drawings was found in the studio after his death, he would return to these when looking to answer a new visual problem.

Anita Taylor saw how Titian’s drawings reveal a skill that “embodied knowledge not style” and describes drawing in general as a “trace of a thinking process” (Taylor, 2008, Foreword in Garner)
  “a great drawing is either confirming beautifully what is commonplace, or  probing authoritatively the unknown”. (Whitely in Garner, 2008, p.11)

Samuel Palmer writing about his early years describes how he withdrew from his way of seeing when he was given a formal education that included academic drawing.
  ”I distinctly remember that I felt the finest scenery and the country in general with a very strong and pure feeling...Then, when I gradually learnt arithmetic and grammar, my feeling and taste left me...” (Palmer in Grigson, 1947. p.9)

It is through a knowledge and experience of looking that the qualities of sensitivity can be developed and understanding how seeing is instrumental in the process of drawing.
“Sentiment is the life and soul of fine art! without it all is a dead letter! sentiment gives a sterling value, an irresistible charm to the rudest imagery or most unpractised scrawl...”(Palmer in Grigson, 1947. p.8)
‘Sentiment’ or sensitivity arrives through developing an individual drawing grammar as opposed to the drier accuracy of an academic or technical drawing discipline”.
The following quotes are from a study on the relationship between maths and drawing ability in art students:
“Poor drawing is related to poor visual memory and a reduced ability at copying angles and proportions, suggesting problems in spatial perception and memory.”
“Drawing is a complex skill, and it almost certainly requires a range of cognitive processes. Our previous work has suggested that at least two low-level processes – visual memory, and the perception of angles and proportions – are required for good drawing. The current study suggests that those who enjoy maths and are good at it are also better at the more precise components of drawing (and of course perspective, shadows, etc, all have their precise mathematical descriptions, which were much studied in the Renaissance explosion of drawing abilities)”.(RCA April 2011)
Drawing Without words
Making a few speedy drawings recently I noticed how my hand to eye connections changed in the process. To be successful I needed to switch off the inner language and allow hand and brain to get on with the job.
To avoid inner language control, I look discerningly but without recognition, a method I discovered through life drawing and have to remind myself to deliberately switch to for any investigative studies. I need to cut out any thoughts of knowing what it is or looks like because there’s always a struggle to make it look like the thing I expect to see. E.g. a hand is a complicated collection of shapes seen from various angles, always different and impossible to capture simply and freely unless I let go of any expectations of how it might look and just observe it as it really is.
To concentrate deeply on an
object or landscape study also causes this disassociation and removal of the spoken word, both internal and external.
“Thought and language is not the same thing”, says Professor NancyKanwisher speaking on the Today programme BBC Radio 4. Recent studies on the brain have revealed specific hot spots that confirm this.

Using fMRI scans cortical regions stunningly specialised for specific cognitive tasks have been discovered for perception of faces, bodies, words and an area that specializes in processing places.
Kanwisher uses the metaphor of the brain as a Swiss Army knife containing a lot of different tools rather than a single all purpose tool.


Observation over a prior knowledge remains important to visual understanding and communication. A viewer will recognise an experience before being aware of what the actual event is.
We continuously glimpse fragments throughout our everyday life. It is our brains that do the hard work to complete partial information and understand the things around us without us ever recognising this process.

Stephen Farthing in ‘Dirtying the Paper’ discusses the quality of unfinishedness in art.

“Drawing is the only language I know where unfinishedness is so deeply ingrained and accepted, not just as part but as a positive attribute of a language”. (Farthing, 2005, p.29)

The viewer’s brain will unconsciously work hard to complete an unfinished or ambiguous image, as it is always searching for recognisable qualities; this is how our brain sees everything.
Through objective drawing and investigating elemental images, I am searching for the marks as forensic evidence. To visually define the qualities I see and enable the reader to understand my intentions.
A recognition of past experience or prior knowledge helps avoid any difficulty of reading in the unfinishedness or open-endedness of an image.

Palmer on seeing Turners “The Orange Merchant man on the Bar”; “...and being by nature a lover of smudginess, I have revelled in him from that day to this”. (Palmer in Grigson, 1947. P.9)

Orange-Merchant on the Bar, Joseph Mallord William Turner. Exhibited 1819
Jay Appleton in The Symbolism of Habitat is arguing how the viewer will respond to both the reality and the image of a landscape. Initially through architectural concerns he broadens his theory to include a variety of landscape aesthetics.
Traditionally landscape painting has always been viewed with relevance to symbols and mythology using ideas like happiness, fecundity, simplicity, romance or labour. He says that this symbolism is culturally determined containing many established associations with the viewer bringing in social, cultural, economic and personal meanings.
But he proposes that there is much more to the way we interpret what we see.
“All that I am now suggesting is that artists may be equally constrained, whether they realise it or not, by the laws of the biological sciences”. (Appleton, 1990. P.105)
He believes that our understanding of landscape aesthetics is an important phenomenon of our environmental perception.

We are wired to look for “symbols of opportunity” he classifies as “prospect” and “refuge” and includes “hazard” for any sources of danger that should be avoided.
As part of an evolutionary process to survive we constantly evaluate the landscape in these three areas
Prospect –open spaces with clear views, like the Savannah which is our natural habitat and is reflected in today’s parkland. Evidence of pathways indicates use and therefore a good prospect.

Refuge – Buildings, caves and groups of trees or places to climb in order to see beyond the horizon or for hiding in safely.

Water or rivers is a necessity, they can become channels for movement but can also be a danger so a bridge or boat adds a prospect value.
The author’s findings could explain the wow moments when we spot a good view it’s an instant interpretation that reflects this inbuilt knowledge and it may not be long before fMRI scans find a brain hot spot that identifies this way of seeing.

Aesthetic judgement of gardens finds beauty in a formal order and also in the natural or disorder, as both contain voids/prospect and masses/refuge this suggests both prospect and refuge do wordlessly affect our responses.
The rewarding view motivates an energetic walk, urged on to get to the top, to see beyond.

Cader Idris & reflections (Evans, 2009)
Cader Idris is a good example of a pyramidal peak that viewed from a distance is always fulfilling. The type of view used for hundreds of years by many diverse artists and those always seeking a fictional Shangri La.
Standing in front of a wonderful view also activates a pleasure principle mechanism and creates a real physical reaction, changing the viewer’s blood pressure.
Recognition has no words it is wired straight to brain hot spots, such as those that deal with face recognition.

Sea-Sea 1970
For Gerhard Richter, subject matter and composition are united. Not concerned with the separate elements within a landscape picture but instead perceiving the image as a whole to have meaning he uses composite photographs slicing across the horizon, severing sea from sky and bringing together disparate parts.

“The painting creates a sense of discontinuity and suggests Richter’s acknowledgement of the gulf separating him from the moment of Romanticism”. (Tate Modern 2011)
Richter has made reference to the veil of mist as seen in Friedrich‘s paintings and frequently uses a blurred realism.
“When a landscape is covered in mist, it appears grander and more sublime. It strengthens the power of the imagination and arouses our expectation...The eye and our fantasy are more readily attracted by nebulous distance than by what lies closer and more distinctly before us”.(Friedrich quoted by Antoine p.77)
Richter is interested in how images “indicate the real” Jean-Philippe Antoine writes“It belongs to the very structure of the human gaze and makes the relationship between reality and image undecidable”. (Antoine p.82/83)


A pair of drawings entitled Distant Double (1989) by the artist Roni Horn are purposefully hung in separate parts of the gallery space so the viewer can recognise their similarity but is also unable to compare them directly. The experience of looking is bought into question as there becomes an attempt to recall one when looking at the other. Her drawings and sculpture are shown together, as drawing is rarely used as a preparatory task.

“if you were to ask me what I do, I would say that I draw – this is the primary activity”.( Horn, 2009, p.94)

This experience has been cleverly thought about in the Tate etc magazine, by displaying the two images back to back on one page. The viewer cannot see both at any one time.

Roni Horn Distant Double (1989)


Looking at an image can physically but unconsciously affect a viewer as the brain sees and connects past experiences. It is a real response that can be mistaken for a spiritual experience.
A viewer and the viewed merge, quieting the words to displace the narrative.
Mondrian’s drawings and paintings evolve from emotions and impressions received from elsewhere but they do not remain in the work as a visible reality:
“This consequence brings us, in a future perhaps remote, toward the end of art as a thing separated from our surrounding environment, which is the actual plastic reality. But this end is at the same time a new beginning”. Mondrian

David Ryan discusses the importance of the presentation of the image, how the single viewer is both perceiving and being there in the space of the imagination, in the fluid states between material, sign and recognition.

I should like to continue this investigation and open up the possibilities through further research into abstract drawing.

Is observational drawing taking things apart and re-constructing things abstract?

Wordcount 2079
Jill Evans 26.4.2012

Bibliography Drawing the gap
Antoine, Jean-Philippe, Koch, Gertrud & Lang, Luc, 1995. Gerhard Richter. Paris: Editions Dis Voir.
Appleton, Jay, 1990. The Symbolism of Habitat: an Interpretation of Landscape in the Arts. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.
Bachelard, Gaston, 1994. The Poetics of Space. The classic look at how we experience intimate places. Boston Massachusetts: Beacon Press.
French 1958, this edition 1994?
Bois, Yve-Alain, Joosten, Joop, Rudenstein, Angelica Z. & Janssen, Hans, 1994. Piet Mondrian 1872-1944. New York: Bulfinch Press.
Causey, Andrew, 1973. Paul Nash’s Photographs. Document and Image. second impression 1975. London: Tate Gallery.

Chipp, Herschel Browning, Selz, Peter Howard, Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics. 1968. London: University of California Press

Clark, Kenneth, 1949. Landscape into Art. London: John Murray.
Farthing, Steven, 2005. Dirtying the Paper Delicately. London: University of the Arts
Godfrey Mark, Diagrams of thought. 2009. Tate etc Spring issue 15
Grigson, Geoffrey, 1947. Samuel Palmer. The Visionary Years. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. LTD.
Goldscheider, Ludwig, 1952. Leonardo da Vinci. Landscapes and Plants. London: Phaidon Press.

Hulton Pontus, Matisse, Paul, 1980. Marcel Duchamp. Notes. Paris: Centre National d’Art et de Culture George Pompidou.

Johnson, Una, E. 1965. Great Drawings of the World. 20th Century Drawings from 1940 to present day. London: Studio Vista.
Klee, Paul, 1948. Paul Klee on Modern Art. Edition 1966. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
(introduction by Read, Herbert)

Kanwisher, Professor Nancy, McGovern, 2012. Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts: Institute of Technology.

Page Mark. Wired for Culture. on BBC Radio 4, Start the Week, Monday 12.3.2012

Motherwell, Robert, 1945. Mondrian, Piet Plastic art and pure plastic art and other essays., 1937- 1941. New York

Reid, Sir Norman, Causey, Andrew & Eates, Margot, 1975. Paul Nash. paintings and watercolours. London: Tate Gallery.
Schama, Simon, 1996. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage Books.
Panorama exhibition leaflet, Gerhard Richter. 2011. Tate Modern: London
Whitely Brett. (1939 – 1992), Tangiers Notebook 1967 in Writing on Drawing Essays on Drawing Practise and Research. edited by Garner Steve. 2008 Intellect Books, Bristol
Inclusive Practice: Researching the Relationship between Mathematical Ability and Drawing Ability in Art Students.Paper for Include 2011, RCA April 2011
Howard Riley, Swansea Metropolitan University
Nicola Brunswick, Middlesex University
Rebecca Chamberlain, University College London
Chris McManus, University College London
Qona Rankin, Royal College of Art


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