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” What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and making whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in ten seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures. In a word, art that is the very opposite of mass media.”
— Robert Hughes
On the importance of drawing:
I agree with the English artist, David Hockney (who was, by the way, a fellow art-student in Sixties’ London) that the loss of an ability to draw is more than just the regrettable passing of a time-honoured tradition. Drawing is the skill that teaches us to engage actively with our visual environment. It is a way of becoming alive to the reality that surrounds us.
Our contemporary society ( and especially its young people) has been made visually passive by the lens-based media. We now have an expectation that the world will come at us actively and engage our attention. In our largely urbanized environments, we only notice what is visually screaming at us in the most aggressive flourescent or neon colours. One of the consequences of this is that we have become chronically de-sensitized visually. And this, I would suggest, is the explanation for the all-pervasive ugliness of modern environments: most of us simply do not notice them visually. Of course this is a vicious circle: the more ugly and aggressive our environments get, the more desensitized we become and therefore the more aggressive our visual environment gets…
But all is not lost. Over the years I have been running my ‘Awakening The Eye’ course, I have been very heartened by the wide variety of people, from artists and teachers to truckies and storemen, who have felt the need to retrieve their ability to SEE the world more clearly, to actively engage with our environment rather than being the passive victim of it. The wonderful paradox of this is that as we engage with our world more through drawing, we simultaneously connect to our own creativity, our own deep natures, more profoundly. Thus the process is beneficial for us all, both outwardly and inwardly.
1st April, 2000
When I woke up this morning I felt utterly wretched : I felt bereft, lost and hopeless.The weight of grief and anger that is accumulating on this second anniversary of my mother’s death grows daily. Somehow, I managed to get myself out of bed and into the day, out into the outside world. I made my way across town to the Children’s Farm in Collingwood . This is an oasis of nature on the river’s edge in this most urban inner-city suburb. As is my custom I sat in meditation for a while, then wandered round looking for something to draw. Eventually I found a neglected looking rosebush growing in a corner of the herb garden. I sat down and focussed my attention on the chronic ache in my back, consciously taking my breath into the pain. As I did so, the luminous petals of the flower began to reveal themselves to me, as did the curving, writhing stems that held them. Each time I saw like this, I became intensely aware of the three dimensional forms in and surrounded by space. The exquisite curving shapes of leaf and stem seemed to evoke corresponding movements within me. I could see the sunlight stored in the greenness of the leaves even though the sky was grey and overcast. When I finally stopped drawing, everything around me looked vibrant with life. I saw that everything was dancing with life and I felt happy to be here and I felt happy to be able to witness it.