Draw, Stranger by Wayne Baerwalt
writing on the exhibition "Draw, Stranger" at Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
Draw Stranger was a series of group exhibitions that addressed invigorating approaches to both traditional drawing techniques and those which reconsidered the act of drawing by incorporating various unconventional media. The idea was always to bring new eyes to the process of mark making.
Many artists are working with increasingly fewer resources and materials at their disposal and must continually search for a production of economy that permits them to proceed with their work. For many it has become essential to simply inscribe a territory or space literally by any means possible with unpredictable levels of exertion to complete the gesture. The gesture, in fact the initial mark or other references indicating the presence of an idea or problem to be investigated.
The artists in the Draw, Stranger series present a notational and provisional vocabulary, sometimes adopting a highly inflected and subjective voice, using a variety of media. Jason Botkin, Christina Kirouac, Brent Richardson, Esther Warkov, Erika Rothenburg, Stuart Mead, Robert Birza, Marc Brandenburg and Katja Davar begin with a more traditional definition of drawing in their use of charcoal, ink, paint or ballpoint pen on paper. It is less a question of one media’s primacy over another as their experimentation begins in the generative margins where scale, subject matter and form may be what attract attention to the activity. For example, Les Newman’s drawings are critical conceptual works that lay bare a process by which the artist extends his creative potential while on various legal and illegal drugs. The work may reek of substance abuse but the intent of the work actually lies outside the subject matter of drugs and altered visions and inadvertently highlights something else – an increasingly abstract, visually engaging diversity of processes that are integral to a study of drawing.
Other artists in the series, such as Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin, Jenny Marketou and Gregory Green offer novel approaches to drawing and subjects of representation. Their support structure for drawing can be the human body; film or video stock while the conceptual parameters for drawing may extend to a shopping list of materials for a letter bomb or the mathematical formula for a computer virus. Mathew Sloly’s online digital images, video loops and stills, although represented in facsimile in the gallery, are produced specifically for Internet access viewing. Sloly presents “levels of information” about representation that disorient viewers and make them question images and forms on the periphery of what we consider identifiable and known. The artist has claimed, in one body of work developed at the Banff Centre for the Arts, that he is “producing visual mutations through a selective breeding process.” His drawings and his investigative process become increasingly hard to describe. Interviews with the artist via website allowed viewers to engage in Sloly’s process.
Paul Butler Uses tape as a form of mark making to alter, subvert or conceal particular subjects, to literally draw out photographic and text images found in magazine and newspaper advertising. The resulting drawings become both representation and documentation of his reaction to advertising catchphrases and images, information so well known that it’s become iconographic. Butler claims that during the process he is “on auto pilot, simply going through the motions, trusting (his) subconscious instinct to edit out everything irrelevant.”
Draw, Stranger represents a collection of strategies to approach the process of drawing as well as the forms that are the result of the initial gesture. Derek Brueckner’s recent solo exhibition at Plug In (as a part of the series) stretched the parameters of exactness and re-presented drawing from the live model as a public, inclusive event – using the gallery as open studio – that was met with unprecedented interest from young and senior members of the public alike.
Draw, Stranger attempted to scratch the surface of limitations on the process of drawings, to allow viewers to investigate a range of thought provoking media including the incidental marks or detritus attached to drawing and the extension of the idea of drawing into another discipline such as film. In a future issue of the Harold a few artists from Draw, Stranger will be revisited to better profile their ongoing investigations in drawing.