It looks like leather, but is actually drawn in pencil; it looks like a drawing of shapes and lines but actually it’s a photograph; it looks like a typical photograph of a school class, but actually is a pencil drawing; it’s called a drawing but is created using projectors and lights. The boundaries between media are becoming blurred and even the word “drawing” itself has two definitions – one to draw using a pen, pencil or crayon; the other is to represent an image or form by using lines.
The joint exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery and Drawing Room in London explore the ways in which artists have blurred and extended the boundaries of drawing, photography and, in the modern era, digital printing. Superficially, they have traditional similarities – creating an image on paper, often in black and white, but boundaries have been extended with the use of light and projection.
Thomson and Craighead also extend the boundaries to digital prints and projection in “Party Booby Trap” at Carroll/Fletcher in Eastcastle Street which adds the fourth dimension of time – past, present and future. A series of posters which appear traditionally hand-printed, but are digital, “Common Era”, show many of the predicted dates for the end of the world, some dates past; some dates many millennia away (while a recent BBC programme on planetary changes and movements of gave the Earth billions of years before it became totally uninhabitable). Projected letters and numbers in “A Temporal Index” create changing totems showing the number of years before sites storing entombed nuclear material will be safe for humans, ranging from a few decades to a million years and “Stutterer”, described as a “poetry machine”, celebrates the long journey to map the genome, linking the letters of the DNA molecules to news footage of world-changing events that have taken place during the time of its discovery, while in “Help Yourself” changing patterns are drawn from video material designed to prevent the accumulation of dead pixels linked to self-improvement tapes.
Traditional drawing enables the artist to add his own interpretation, to exaggerate features and create his own style as American artist R Crumb’s demonstrates with the extensive series of drawings for his “Art and Beauty” magazine which fill David Zwirner’s ground floor gallery. First published in 1996, Crumb has just completed his third volume, with his drawings allowing him to add quotations from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Cezanne and Andy Warhol linking the his themes of art and beauty and also his own commentary on the curves and beauty of his cast of female figures, many of the drawings being derived from photographs, life studies and, apparently, selfies sent to him by email.
In the 21st century, the field is wide open for the modern interpretation of drawing, both traditional and innovative, across many media.