INNOVATE SERIES: THE 24 HOUR DRAWING PROJECT
19 February - 8 March 2014
Opening Night | Thursday 20 February 6-8pm
BLINDSIDE Innovator Series | The 24 Hour Drawing Project is an event in which artists start and finish a work of art in a continuous 24hour period. Hannah Bertram has co-curated and participated in nine of these projects and is now exhibiting a selection of works produced during previous events. She will also complete a new 24hrDP during the exhibition period. At the core of the event is an exploration of intensive effort, attention to process, action and time.
Hannah Bertram and Jenny Hector will work in the gallery in public view.
Drawing Through Day and Night
In the second decade of the new millennium contemporary artists are the inheritors of a full century of conceptual art practice. The 20th Century, however we choose to frame it, gave rise to a near continuous radicalisation - traditional skills gave way to ephemeral and ready-made forms, the dematerialisation of the art object came hand in hand with the burgeoning of performative practice and increasingly the rise of digital technologies turned networks into mediums that artists manipulate at will. But in all of this ferment, and in the face of much theoretical disinterest, one of our oldest skills persists; what we call it is drawing.
In its more immediate forms, pencil or charcoal on paper, stick in wet sand, ochre on rock surface, drawing is a reaching for that first visual impression. In the savant-like renderings of our early cave-dwelling ancestors we recognise the natural desire to record, to capture the flow of movement and to orient ourselves through depicting what we desire. In the face of this hard-wired instinct it is difficult indeed to erase, conceptually or theoretically that which comes from the body. The hand reaching to ‘say’ what the eyes have seen, the heart and mind willing a feeling or thought into form, the body curious about the language beneath the skin.
Drawing draws us out, draws us in and draws us down, entwining our own experiences in the language of the artist. The freehand bravura sketch, seemingly so simply accomplished is the least mediated of art forms, the most exposed, and yet enigmatic all the same. Perhaps this is so because drawing represents a birthing, whereby the unseen musings of the mind take shape before our eyes. This coming into form is the place where language coalesces and where the product of an individual consciousness becomes the vernacular shared by the many.
Hans-Georg Gadamer, the German hermeneutic philosopher was much taken with the processes pertaining to art. In his key text ‘Truth and Method’, 1960 Gadamer suggests: “All encounter with the language of art is an encounter with an unfinished event and is itself part of this event.” The statement while extending to all artistic production illuminates also drawing’s intrinsic fluidity, its close alignment with process, its capacity to resist completion, and the embedded seductive hint at what it might become.
It is here that we turn to artist Hannah Bertram’s most recent exhibition featuring successive bodies of work that take shape around continuous 24-hour periods. In setting herself to these marathon tasks, Bertram is treating the process of drawing as a voyage of discovery. Where it begins is relatively certain but how the day will end and what the exercise will engender is something that only time will tell.
If we happen to be in the Blindside gallery for this unusual survey show we may witness a work in progress, the artist occupying her day with a ceaseless production of art. There is of course something quite fascinating about activities that require a degree of prolonged endurance. The long-distance runner has a finishing line to cross but to get there he or she must battle the physical and mental fatigue; it is in the most basic of terms a mode of personal transcendence. Transposed to a creative endeavour there is always the possibility that the conscious controls of the mind, wearied by a day of action, may loosen their hold on the job. Little things slip out and sometimes they are quite sublime.
In the way that this artist attends to her work we see a desire to access the power of unconscious expression. Two hands for instance, working on separate pages produce a continuous series of impressions. It is impossible in such a scenario for the mind to grasp in any totality what is being rapidly created. Faced with such productions we are distant indeed from the ancient origins of depiction. That initial outward gaze that compelled our ancestors to draw has here been supplanted by an inwardly directed activity. To engage so freely with the subjective constructions of perception, to disavow the imagined objectivity of seeing, and to allow a profuse unfolding of language is to stake a claim on visual poetry. Hannah Bertram does this and the results are clearly beguiling.
Damian Smith, 2014