Untangling Drawing Part Two: Cheating Time

Mark making is almost always about cheating time and challenging physical space. Think about it. Even the act of signing your name on a document is making a mark that represents your endorsement of something, so you don’t have to continually tell someone you agree, or take the time to travel distances to approve something in person. Writing is about communicating ideas across distance (either in time or space) writing enables people to communicate without having to be present. Similarly making images is also about communication but in a more abstracted or ambiguous way.

In the early days humans drew on cave walls, traced their hands: I was here, like the anticipation of future haunting. Those early renderings were literal traces (of hands) as well as figurative ones, the evidence of existence. There is certainly a strong link between the process of drawing and the concept of trace: “If drawing is the art of the trace, this would mean that it has a privileged relation to the non-visible” (Newman, 2003, p. 96). Drawing is perhaps the simplest expression of mark making and as such the formative example of expression.

Whatever else art is about, the impulse to create is also the impulse to mark the world, to sign it as you might a school desk “Justine waz here”, to prove you are present in the world, and to assure yourself that one day, long after you have gone, long after you have bled out of living memory, somewhere there will be proof you once existed.

Drawing is a temporal activity on numerous levels. Usually it is created for a future audience who are not present at the time of its making. But additionally, drawing holds within it the passage of time that consitutes its own making… drawing is the trace of time spent with a surface, inherent in the mark is the deliberate touch of the artist. It would seem that the immediacy of drawing, as the most pared back form of mark making, is able to hint at the intangible and the ephemeral “… drawing is closer to the movement of time, to lived temporality” (Newman, 2003, p. 96). John Berger also notes the connection of drawing to time: “Isn’t the act of drawing, as well as the drawing itself, about becoming rather than being. Isn’t a drawing the polar opposite of a photo? The latter stops time, arrests it; whereas a drawing flows with it” (Berger, 2008, p. 124).

The process of drawing operates on different time streams. When I draw I am present in the moment, this moment, right now as my pencil touches the paper, but I am also present in the moment before and the moment after, because of the direction of movement, and at the same time I am somewhere else, somewhere internal, looking backward, looking forward, seeing the beginning and anticipating the end.

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