Des Kenny’s article about Walking/Drawing

Des Kenny, Dorothy Smith & Kathy Herbert

Kathy Herbert and Dorothy Smith participated in a five day drawing collaboration in Draiocht’s Ground Floor Gallery from 8-12 July 2014. Both artists have worked together on various drawing projects in the past. Meeting at an arts festival they discovered a shared interest in drawing and a common belief that the medium had great potential to move beyond their studio practice into the public domain. Drawing traditionally was considered an educational medium, training artists to become sculptures or painters. This notion perhaps historically changed in 1953 when a young unknown artist Rauschenberg erased a Willem de Koonen drawing, with his permission. This act of erasure released drawing from the shackles of tradition and made it relevant and responsive to the immediate concerns of contemporary culture. Artists began to realise drawing could forge a new experimental era of innovative art outside conservative structures.

A 25 feet x 5 feet sheet of paper is stretched across a wall of the downstairs gallery in Draiocht, fixed momentarily in stillness, waiting to absorb the artist’s concepts.

Each artist would separately walk around the Draiocht environs and return with sketches and photos and begin to incorporate these images onto the large sheet. Initially these images were disconnected and spread disjointly across the drawing surface. Editorial decisions in the beginning were limited, keeping the drawing process expansive and fluid; ensuring possibilities are not corralled by controlled selective interventions. At this stage a well pruned tree not fully delineated captures space on the left hand side of the drawing, while an elevated drawing of apartments furtively holds centre ground. Right of centre a lone dandelion precariously rooted in a cracked pavement, mirrors natures defiance against commercial control. An intercom looming larger than life size, shapes silently the right corner.

Various groups including teenagers and adults joined the artists on their walks. They created drawings, utilising materials and methodology employed by Kathy and Dorothy. This engagement with the public was an active element of the drawing project, extending artistic practice beyond shuttered studio walls.

The large drawing sheet began to fill with new imagery as the days unfolded towards the projects conclusion. Each artist’s drawings began to taper fugitively into each other, marrying their conscious streaming of disparate parts into a self contained unit. The drawing became a theatre of negotiation as drawing space diminished, unlocking artistic self imposed restrictions; reflecting urban life’s impediments, encountered and bypassed, during their daily walks of research. Poetic metaphor and bruising reality coalesced awkwardly on the glinting white membrane of receptive paper. Sketches of fences pointed like spears, skewering drawing space for one artist, as a traffic stop sign tried to marshal leeway for the other. The drawing appeared to be a living organism; making demands upon its creators too suspend personnel goals for the greater good. In this sunburst of creative understanding, a collaborative work of art surfaces, unsullied by individual ambition.

A well attended talk concluded the artists five day collaborative exercise in drawing at Draiocht. Both artists detailed their artistic history and how they will cooperate on future projects. They explained that the process in making a large scale drawing was as important as the finished product.

Contemporary art culture has blurred the boundaries between process and product, granting both equal aesthetic values. The discussion was vibrant and absorbing as the audience discussed how art created with the simplest means of pencil and paper, expanded visual awareness. Through the gateway of history, artists like Kathy and Dorothy are inheritors of Rauschenberg’s legacy, filling the void of his erased De Koonen drawing with a conceptual system that is open ended and inclusive.

MORE … Enjoy a 360 Video of the finished work … HERE …

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny’s practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.


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