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1st December. 7 days to go. That is all…
From 15th October I will be starting work on DRAW DUKE STREET a residency at Market Gallery. The caps are purely because this is possibly the craziest thing I have ever done: I am going to set up shop in one of the gallery’s space for about six weeks, and attempt to draw all of the shops and places of interest on a particular stretch of this Glasgow suburban high street (between Duke Street and Bellgrove Train stations). I will draw stretches of the street on the usual A0 board and piece these together in a strip along the walls of the gallery, representing the street. I will be working in the same space, day in, day out, and will be running an open workshop policy where anyone can come on in, say hello, ask what’s going on and, if they feel so inclined, contribute.
I am however, going to need to put together a team of volunteers to help with two broad areas of the background research, of, broadly speaking ‘local’ guides (I am local myself, but I know there is stuff I don’t know). These are people with particular stories to tell about the street, a long association with it, and a good knowledge of the ins and outs of Dennistoun.
And I also need to assemble a team of fellow field-researchers to assist with the process of contacting places on Duke Street, interacting with shopkeepets and helping to gather the information that goes into creating the dialectogram. This would be particularly suited to students in anthropology, geography, architecture or environmental art, but I’d be interested in talking to anyone who think they might be able to give a few hours here and there to help me pull all the info together.
For your time and trouble you would be acknowledged as a co-creator of the final piece.
So, if you think you can help – firstname.lastname@example.org – very much looking forward to hearing from you.
It’s been April – I’ll say that again – APRIL, since my last post, so I thought it was loooong past time I made an update.
Looking back on my last post I realise with some embarrassment that I was supposed to give full commentaries and background on the past two dialectograms. I’m not going to do that today, but do promise to get these up as soon as I can.
Instead, I’m going to get up to speed on what’s actually been happening these past few months. I think it is fair to say I have not been idle! As well as keeping things ticking over on the PhD, I’ve been looking into potential sites to draw, was a guest of the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference in Edinburgh to talk about Red Road, and giving a paper at the Drawing Research Network Conference 2012 in Loughborough, where I met other researchers who like to draw, and talk about it at length. Sometimes great length.
Occasionally, I got around to actually drawing something. So, the first major event of the last five months was in May when I joined with others to Go Tell it On The Green at the People’s Palace. I collaborated with a distinguished line-up of Peter McCaughey, Ross Sinclair, Roddy Buchanan, Johnny Rodger, Michael Mersinis, Gordy Munro and Raymond Burke. Go Tell it on the Green marked the demolition of Douglas Gordon’s 1990 artwork Proof, a hidden monument that marked, rather gnomically, Glasgow’s scurrilous and largely occluded radical history, encompassing the Weaver’s strike of 1787, the ‘Radical War’ or Scottish insurrection of 1820, female political activists during the first world war and anarchist Guy Aldred’s campaigns against the prohibition of political meetings and public use of the Green. In the same year as the artwork’s creation, widespread public anger and a sustained campaign led by Workers City defeated plans to privatise whole swathes of Britain’s oldest public space. A surfeit of symbolism, I’m sure you’ll agree – especially as its demolition (by Network Rail for Health and Safety, before a campaign could even be mounted) occurred in the same year that the Council tried to impose entertainment licences on small exhibitions and events, while simultaneously buying into the increasingly odious PR guff around the ‘Glasgow miracle’.
I’ll de-rant for now, but full details, including film of the talks by Emma Lennox can be found here. The event was also about trying to stimulate further interest and discussion in the hidden history the mural represented. My own thoughts in this direction led me to consider the surface of the Green as a giant, but somewhat impenetrable, recording device for these movements (in both senses) on the ’m not very pleased with this drawing -really just a germ infecting the germ of an idea - but I see it as the first iteration of something I intend to pursue much further and will hopefully, open up new possibilities for drawing in tandem with site specific work, using sound and geographical positioning, Expect to hear more, soon.
Speaking of public outcries, it’s also worth mentioning the right stramash that took place overCreative Scotland. The ‘more-than-just-a’ funding body has been in the spotlight of late, as serious critical debate and conversation around how the arts are funded moved from Variant – where it has been consistently criticised and investigated – to centre-stage. Pun intended here – the catalyst has been from among the theatre sector and the removal of flexible funding from these organisations. Variant has been told it will no longer receive funding from Creative Scotland – check here to get their take on it and if you feel so inclined, assist their efforts to resume publication. For in-depth, accessible, intelligent and ecumenical analysis of the situation check out Stramash Arts for a blow by blow account of this year’s events.
Of course, it’s not all been politicking this year. There was also The Wedding Game, a collaboration with fellow One Night Standee Minka Stoyanova. Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace have a magnetic attraction for me, I think. Our collaboration was Minka’s brainchild as a contribution to Shotgun Wedding, a show by the Effort Collective. This involved drawing a dialectogram-style game environment and characters for Minka to set the events of an adventure/puzzle game premised around trying to spirit a bride, groom (and yourself) from the mother of all Glasgow weddings. Minka is now working on the finished version, so I’ll pop up the link once it is finished.
Then there’s SeRTES, an Information and Communication Technology Research Project involving 7 universities and a range of different disciplines. My attitude to ICT is fairly straightforward; if it works, and does the job I want it to do, I’m happy. This attitude is however, having to change with a new piece of work I’m doing with the SeRTES group to investigate how technology is used in the everyday environment – where we access it, how it blends into our current surroundings, and so forth. It is really interesting stuff, and nice to get back into drawing fully domestic situations (it’s been a while). You can see the first of a series of sketches I’m producing to help the group with its research here, based on the ‘measurable unit’ of a weekend. The involvement has given me some excellent ideas for how I might work on a series of domestic dialectograms sometime in the future.
One of the most exciting things to happen, work-wise, this summer was my visit to The Seminary at Cardross, courtesy of The Invisible College. I am going to be quick on this one simply because this demands a post all of its own. Geographer Hayden Lorimer kindly invited me to come along on The Invisible College’s daytrip and evening workshop to Kilmahew park, location of the ruined Cardross Seminary.
The next update will be along very soon, as I have a rather important announcement to make, but before closing, I want to point you in the direction of VAROOM!LAB and Swansea Metropolitan University’s Spatialising Illustration Symposium in Swansea, on the 24th and 25th of January 2013. I am headed to this event run by Derek Bainton, a good friend of this Blog, and Varoom! magazine.. All the information for the event is included below– the call for papers is closed (sorry Derek for not distributing this sooner!) but worth going to, to hear about recent work and research in this area.
Just a very quick post today…firstly, to announce that another two dialectograms have rolled out of the dialectofactory – the first is a redrawing of the very first dialectogram, which had to be withdrawn for issues of privacy. It depicts a showman’s yard in Glasgow’s East End -
I will post a full update and commentary on this sometime next week – for now, feel free to take a look!
The other dialectogram is based on James Kelman’s novel Kieron Smith Boy, and shows the bedroom the title character shares with his older brother, very much from his perspective -
Again, I’ll put up some commentary next week to go further into what the picture shows – and why.
Lastly, I am VERY chuffed to announce that I have been accepted for membership of Reportager, a network of those involved in documentary and journalistic illustration run out of the University of the West of England. They have a very exciting line up of projects and the talents involved are impressive – I am humbled and amazed to be included in the roster. Some wonderful stuff there, so do please check it out.
Sorry for the quick update – more verbiage per pound next time, I promise!
Just a quick newsflash; the work from Stuart Murray’s blog is now on exhibit, for one week only at the Project Room in Trongate 103. The simplicity and care with which Stuart’s drawings are laid out results in a very powerful show – funny, moving, a little disturbing in turn. As the ad here shows (thanks to Stuart for permission to reproduce) you only have until the 29th to get there (don’t go tomorrow though – Trongate is shut on Mondays – also note, you can go throughout the day, not just 7-9pm).
I’d highly recommend it; Stuart’s ink-people have a strange concreteness to them, and they are the sort of people I imagine moving around inside dialectograms and sitting on my shaky hand furniture. Check out his other work on his personal website, where you’ll find an essay by yours truly…
…nothing like a boomerang log roll on a Sunday afternoon…
Well, it’s been a while. Hopefully I will be more regular from now on, but I think I always say that every time I resume posting after yet another hiatus.
So what’s been happening? The first –major – bit of news is that I have the means and support to continue dialectograms for at least three years. This is thanks to the Glasgow School of Art who have accepted me for a practice-based PhD at the Art School, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for giving me a grant to do so. That is, I get to spend the best part of three years mooching round the city drawing, and ‘all’ I have to do is write a thesis at the end!
Well, of course, it’s more complex than this, but it is a golden opportunity to expand the range and reach of dialectograms into other parts of the city, and really experiment with the style and method. I am therefore, very much in the market for ideas and suggestions for places to draw. Do you know somewhere, some people, who would make a good drawing? As with the Red Road drawings, the finished drawings will be offered to Glasgow Museums to become part of their collection. As one of the hardest parts of the process is gaining access to sites, I would also appreciate any thoughts on useful contacts and groups that I could introduce myself to. Please contact me if you have some ideas.
In other news, I have posted for your delectation, a recent dialectogram, of sorts, based on James Kelman’s novel The Busconductor Hines. It is included in the book The Red Cockatoo: James Kelman and the art of commitment which looks at the writer’s political background and activities, which I co-authored with Johnny Rodger. We’ll be launching it at the Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair on the 29th October at 1pm, so if you’re that end of the M8, come along.
Lastly, check out the work of London-based artist Helen Scalway. We recently met at Central Station to discuss the similarities in our work and found we had plenty in common. Helen uses type and computer generated imagery to create drawings very similar to dialectograms. Now, you’d think I’d be wary of an apparent rival but Helen’s work offers a different enough take on what you could call mythogeography. It is also nice to know there is someone else out there who is tackling similar problems. Helen is apparently starting a blog soon, so I will let you know when she gets that started. Speaking of blogs, Stuart Murray continues to do some great work over at his gaff.
Speaking of mythogeography, check this place out for some thought provoking articles and perspectives – it has certainly given me plenty to think about.
Excerpt from a great essay by Paul Gravett on ligne claire, a style of drawing I someday, aspire to…
Hergé & The Clear Line:
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE LINE
Even in today’s computer age, the genesis, and the final revelation, of so much comic art remains the line. “It’s only lines on paper, folks!!” as Robert Crumb once put it. Ah, but which lines, how many lines, and what graphic qualities of lines will an artist choose, and why?
By learning from his precursors and his contemporaries in Europe and America, the Belgian creator Hergé, pseudonym of Georges Remi (1907-83), distilled his personal approach to these questions in his masterwork, the twenty-three Adventures of Tintin, begun in January 1929 and published as albums between 1930 and 1976 (he left a twenty-fourth unfinished). Over the years, he came to see that “the biggest difficulty with comics is to show exactly what is necessary and sufficient to understand the story; nothing more, nothing less.” To do this, Hergé arrived in successive forms at what later, after all of his Tintin albums had been published, became known as the Clear Line.
This is a clarity of line that defined figures, objects, backgrounds, everything, in the same precise outline, stripped of superfluous rendering or shading, and, equally important, a clarity of readability in his panel-to-panel narrations and stories. A clarity so clear that many a child has followed the story long before they can read the words. Independent Hergé biographer Huib van Opstal wrote: “In the Clear Line label, Hergé saw too much attention for the outside aspect of his work. In strip making, he considered his narrative technique and compositional hierarchy equally important to his style of drawing. ‘It took me twenty years to understand that the story is more important than the art.’”