Marking on a Back Ground

Georg Baselitz Kopf 1981

“But line, if it was symbolic abstraction, was physically generated by an individual. As drawing departed from its craft traditions, skill was admired as facilitating individuality. Personal touch distinguished one artist from another and established hierarchies according to the quality of the “handwriting.” According to one Renaissance master, “there is not need of more, no more time nor proof nor examination in the eyes of those who understand the matter and know that by a single straight line Apelles could be distinguished from that other immortal Greek painter, Protogenes.” A single drawing is thus descriptive of a whole stylistic language, synthesizing all of the elements necessary to recognize the artistic personality. Spontaneity was valued, but even those drawings which displayed intellectual detachment were appreciated as indicative of private thoughts, painstakingly revealed….
“At this point, the outlines of the tradition we have inherited should perhaps be clarified. In its most general sense, drawing is simply marking on a back ground surface with any implement to create an image. As such it is fundamental to all the visual arts, but in Western art drawing is usually discussed in terms of a split between the idea and the execution of a finished work. Drawing has thus come to be associated with particular techniques and modes of expression, even particular tools and mediums, although these have been considerably expanded in the twentieth century.” [Bernice Rose on Drawing]

Matthew Ritchie Installation Demon in the Diagram 2018

… the emancipation of drawing occurs on levels well beyond the granting of equality to a genre frequently regarded as less important than painting. Artists today feel no obligation to perpetuate the craft and practice of drawing that absorbed artists from the Renaissance until the mid-twentieth century. In a larger sense, they are also free from the arduous submission to tradition that T. S. Eliot believed must first occur before an artist can create work of significant originality. (Few of the artists here would agree with Ingres’s observation that drawing is the “probity” of art.) Although the emancipation of drawing from such restraints has led to many brilliant bursts, the losses are also obvious. Without the ongoing support of tradition, artists often have little but their individuality—reflecting the Babel of selves that is modern culture—and often yield to a kind of regressive narcissism in their view of the world. They resemble self-made folk artists who piece together art from what’s left in the drawers, except that they are so painfully self-conscious. The permissions of postmodernism can create a free-form prison. [Mark Stevens on Drawing Now: Eight Propositions]


Ellsworth Kelly, Poppy, 2010

“Drawing today is not a vehicle for self-expression within a fully realized structure of self-explanatory forms; nor is it a term that signifies a set of rules projecting a ratio nalist view of the world.
In the present era style and autography are no longer synonymous, yet drawing retains an authority over the notion of authenticity and affirms that the artist’s hand still counts in the primary expression of ideas. Drawing holds a unique position within the spectrum of the arts, for while maintaining its own tradition it has also served the most subversive of purposes.
The formal purity of drawing is not an issue, nor is it of much concern to artists. The progression of modernism as the isolation of those means of production peculiar to each medium is now only one aspect of artistic practice. What is more important in understanding the current situation is that drawing has become one of the principal elements of a new language and that it operates in a variety of guises, conservative as well as revolutionary. Catalytic to the re-alignment of drawing has been its relationship to sculpture. Although drawing is still the primary conceptual medium for some artists, many others do not use it at all, and for still others it is an after- the-fact tool for the further exploration of previously completed work. Many artists continue to produce autonomous finished drawings, often as alternatives to painting. As drawing has moved toward its new status it has asserted both its linear autonomy and its conceptual control over other disciplines.” [Bernice Rose on Drawing]

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