At the beginning of this term we were give a seminar consisting of various different lecturers giving us a quick idea about what they would be teaching and considering if we were to choose their study group. I decided to choose Dr Martyn Woodward, with a subject title of “Expressing The Unseen.” What he was considering in his subject was how does our experience shape the material world and how does the material world shape our experiences? It explored how we experiences things and why we experience them in that way and how this then affects what we do and what we make. This interested me greatly.
The first session was about thinking through drawing. I really enjoyed the first session and found it very thought provoking. We began by looking at a Woodcut depicting a flood scene at Castel Sant Angelo in Rome. The maker had never actually seen the scene that they were depicting but it was brought to the maker as a story which they had had experiences about and then converted the experiences onto paper, showing his ideas of what it would have looked at. We then considered which was a more correct representation, this persons experience of the scene or a modern photograph?
We then looked at something called a hegemony (or dominance) of vision and discussed the fact that 90% of things are designed for visual impact; We seem to think that vision is the most important way of experiencing the world, overlooking our other experiences. Juhani Pallassmaa looked at architecture through touch rather than visually. I thought it was interesting to note we actually touch things with our eyes. When we look at something we touch it visually, weighing it up, predicting what it may feel like. Constantin Brancusi made a sculpture for the blind which consisted of a stone egg shape weighted differently each side encouraging you touch it as it is only this way that one will fully experience the object.
(Constantin Brancusi: Sculpture For The Blind)
We then moved on to to look at embodied experiences. In a human there is a perimeter of experience with the mind and body at its centre. It is impossible to pinpoint the experience of someone to a singe point in this circle because you are missing out all the experiences that go alongside that one experience. We explored the mind and how it tends to be disembodied; we forget about our bodies and only concentrate on what we are thinking. Mark Johnson has some interesting quotes on this point; “The best biology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and phenomenology available today teach us that our human forms of experience, consciousness, thought, and communication would not exist without our brains”. Mark Johnson also said “Contrast this embodiment hypothesis with our commonsense view of mind. Although most people never think about it very carefully, they live their lives assuming and acting according to a set of dichotomies that distinguish mind from body, reason from emotion, and thought from feeling.” I found it thought provoking that all things within us are connect and our experiences would not be the same if mind was separate from body, but when we experience everything about us is contributing to that experience even though we may not realise.
Dr Martyn Woodward make an interesting point about language. When we speak words there is not obvious scientific explanation about why a dog is called a dog. However for us to have named the object we must have had some experience and feeling about the object, which would have therefore formed the word. In language there are plosive consonants which are stopping letters such as p,d,ch,t,j,b,g and continuous consonants which continues through when you say them like r,s,i,e,m,n,h,sh. If you take the words sea and ground you can see that sea is made up of the flowing continuous consonants and ground of the stopping consonants which made perfect sense due to their nature; ground is hard, sea is flowing. So there is a connection between our experience and the word itself.
The next topic we discussed was where it got really interesting. We examined that if one was to slow down the process of experience you would realize that every movement that we make there are thousands of micromovemnts that we are completely unaware of but the brain performs them in order to carry out the task, constantly adjusting muscles all over our body to perform the action of drawing for instance . This is similar to how when we look at something we are not actually experiencing it in full although we may think we are. To experience it in full one much be aware of what the object caused the rest of our senses to experience. To test out we did a practical task whereby we tried writing the word “line” in lowercase and then uppercase slowing it down to try and be more aware of what our body was doing to adjust from lowercase to the uppercase. I found that when I was writing smaller it felt more flowing, I joined up the letters, it required less adjusting of arm and fingers. Whereas with the upper case I was stronger, it required more effort, arm played more of a part in movement. With the lowercase, eyes adjusted at certain points to follow pen point, whereas with the uppercase the eye adjusted at each letter. Its interesting that in writing the uppercase usually denoted shouting and anger and when you are writing it, you are more forceful and aggressive.
This tied in nicely with the final topic of drawing lines and the question of what is drawing? When we draw we are unaware of the experience of creating a line. However, it is the lines that make visible the unconscious experiences. So lines in drawing don’t represent experience, they are the experiences. eg a line that is hard and solid would be seen as more angry and would require more force and aggression to produce which is what you would be experiencing as you are creating it. Painting/drawing shows the experiences of the world; A drawing of a tree doesn’t show a tree but shows the artist experience of the tree.
Our final task was to draw and object without seeing it, but drawing purely by what it felt like and what those senses made us feel and drawing that down onto paper. We then looked at the object again and drew our representation of the object as we see it with our eyes. As expected the two were quite different but neither more accurate a representation that the other. I found that when you close you eyes and focus on the feeling and touch sensation of the object you get a more intense experience about the object and connect with it more, discovering it textures and shapes and forms in a completely different way to the eyes. I also found that I drew at the speed that I explored so my hand would draw a line at the same speed that I would run my thumb over the object.
We were also asked to write a bit about what we use drawing for and how its expressive potential adds to what we think about our practice-
I feel that drawing for me is a method to quickly get down ideas as they arise in my head. Its far to difficult to explain in words how I visualise a 3d object in my head because the person I’m explaining it too would then have to visualise it in their head, so a quick sketch serves to remind me of the idea. Its a bit like note taking but for something I visualise in 3d, although the drawing can sometimes be in 2d. Drawing also help me to understand my own ideas more forming them into a shape and form the wasn’t exactly clear in my mind. They also serve as a method of development; drawing a 3d object can help bring light to potential issues with a design and possible improvements to shape for and structure of an object. The expressive potential of drawing means that you have the opportunity to bring the object and idea to life, serving to possibly give you further ideas, making you decided that the idea should become a reality and to communicate the idea to others.