BIG has to have a reason.
Students used to say to me after I asked “what next?” “I’m going to do a really big one!” And my next question was always “why?”.
If a piece of work is successful, why do you think it will be more successful just because it is bigger? I’m all for experimentation, but just because something is bigger it doesn’t make it more important. I’m all for questioning the size of the paper (or whatever) we work on. If you are working on A3 just because it is there, yes, try something different. It may well be that it works better much much smaller, or yes, bigger. (With students, I rarely found smaller was where they wanted to go.) But making things bigger just for the sake of it, trying to be impressive…? No.
So why do I work big? What’s my excuse?
Well I didn’t have one. I’m still trying to work it out, but it feels right, and I’m getting closer to the why…
A couple of years ago I was forced to work sketch book size for ages – A5 handbaggable even. Then managed to stretch to A3, A2… but that still felt very contained. And the things I was drawing were also contained within the edges of the page. They became motif-like. Botanical drawings, diagrams of something else.
When circumstances and finances allowed, I went big, desperate to escape the small format. I didn’t know why particularly, except it felt right, and I could. But I could still hear the teacher/mentor inside me asking myself “yeah, but WHY?”
I skirted past it briefly, a glancing blow during Cause and Effect. Something about one drawing not stopping at the edges and the paper just being one part of something more. But that little thought didn’t really go anywhere, it got caught, lodged in the weeds at the edge of the pond.
I’ve also gone on about how I don’t like it if I’m asked about art and philosophers. That crowbarring thing one is sometimes asked to do as part of a course. I’m mostly a really shallow pick and mix person. Ask anyone who had to mark any of my essays. I’d latch on to one thing and say, “Yep! That’ll do!” without digging any deeper. I’m still like that really. But these little bits do help me think about the why.
I liked the Rhizome that belonged to Deleuze. I could see how that worked in myself. I dodge all over the place, doing this and that, thinking about this and that, and something would get trapped in the weeds, as above, until something else came along and added to the thought, helped it grow and set out shoots and flowers. Yes. I can see how that works. I can feel it happening.
The BIG has been bugging me for a while though. I knew I wanted big work, but I was having trouble articulating it. I waved my arms about a bit…
And then, a chance conversation with fellow Stourbridge artist Helen Garbett led me to Tim Ingold. Lines. I’ve ordered the book on the strength of the paper she gave me to read.
Suddenly I am starting to grasp at the reason for BIG.
I need the lines I draw to be bigger than me. I need, like a spider with a web, to draw out the lines to see where they go when they get beyond me. I want the edges of the paper to be beyond my reach. By drawing over the edge, possibly onto the next piece, I am extending the path and the trajectory and the possibilities into uncharted territory. When I draw at this end, the other end is out of focus… I can acknowledge the leakiness of my mind and body into additional space.
When I draw it out into the third dimension with wire, the world beckons… I am exploring further. Tendrils of thought seek out something to join onto, like the growth of my cucumber plants on the windowsill. Curling three dimensional lines. Reaching out and grasping on to pull and support a new trajectory. I write lines on my page, a continuous hand written ink line… holding on to the feint-ruled line….
I had contained my terrified thoughts on small sketchbook pages. But those thoughts were seeds. They have begun to germinate now. I can look further. My terrified thoughts are still inside me, but I’ve begun to stretch them out to find something to grab onto.
The materials I am using have changed slightly, and the things I draw have changed accordingly. My thoughts still linger on the cause and effect. One person on one person, one ink line on one piece of paper. But then where?