Hand drawn backdrops
A couple of experiments were made with hand drawn backdrops of the bomb site map. On the left is brush and ink and on the right is a brush pen. I kept the style intentionally loose as I wanted to create an evident analogue nature – as we decided previously, a casually photocopied set of digitised traces on A4 sheets would be detrimental to the drawings.
My intent is to add the scribblings of a child on the wall behind. A child who is defying the adult by spoiling the space around them in the only way they can. A child who dare not corrupt the family album but in many ways can visualise something far more meaningful by looking at the wider impact of the war.
The challenge with the hand drawn is to show intent rather than throw away casual and my immediate concern is that this style looks lazy rather than thoughtful. It is difficult to create a confident representation of the digital with both brush and brush pen. My decision is that this style looks too untidy and poses a risk to interfering with the drawings themselves.
Hence I created a new version using a fine liner below, ensuring that all lines were carefully joined. Hopefully we have lifted the analogue style to the mid-ground between scribble and purpose.
I then placed a test arrangement of the drawings suspended in front of the background to allow for a peer review, as well as the drawings in front of a plain white background for comparison.
Interestingly, peer review comments generally favoured the plain background, many thinking that the background drawing detracted from the drawings themselves. I took time to reflect on this myself and I am now in agreement. The drawn background does seem to disrupt the pathways between the drawings. Yes, the abstract drawing adds a pseudo network but it subconsciously leads the eye around the grid in along certain routes and disrupts the freedom of flow. The plain background shows off a visually satisfying grid structure and I find my eyes flitting more freely in all directions, without having to intermittently refocus on the abstract background.
Another aspect of the plain background is that the verticals are more prominent and I can imagine the drawings as washing hung out to dry. I remember well my gran’s stockings on her washing line so we have found yet another domestic reference that is worth keeping.
So my conclusion is that the drawn background takes away more than it adds – the plain white background adds a clarity and freedom.
Curiosity led me to hang the drawings in front of a mirror as well as the layouts above. I wondered whether the self reflection would add a new dimension – if I see myself in between these drawings does it generate a feeling that I might belong in there somewhere? In reality this arrangement made for quite a confusing view. I spend my time looking for myself instead of at the drawings and the multiple reflections of the backs of the drawings adds nothing but confusion. So the mirror was hung back above the mantelpiece where it belongs.
Out of interest I captured a video of the drawings being turned over. I was curious as to how the narrative felt when it was linear; enforced by the artist rather than being left to the viewer. Receiving a story rather than reading one feels quite different. There is little room for manoeuvre and the pace is set for me which in one way is frustrating but in another I have just enough time to absorb each image and am keen to see the next.
In a gallery setting an accompanying video with sound track would be a consideration. The audio recording of our interview with Max Thompson could be played along with a clip such as this. The interplay between audio and visuals would be fascinating to construct – filling in the gaps in the spoken word with the hidden messages or unspeakable truths may add yet another dimension to the work.