The order of the drawing, Loughborough University

Arno Kramer guest curator


In 1767 a book was published in Amsterdam by Pieter Myer that contained a eulogy entitled Triumph for Drawing written for the Mayor of Amsterdam, the writer goes out of his way artistically, whether or not in rhyme, with the aim of persuading the city to build a building where the noble art of drawing could be seen and practiced.

In 1784, 17 years after the publication of this text, Teylers Museum was opened in Haarlem, the first museum in The Netherlands. And it was striking that, in addition to many scientific and physical attributes and books, the collection soon also possessed an enormous collection of drawings and prints. Almost two centuries later, the Dutch art historian Carel Blotkamp put together Praise of the art of drawing in 1973, and I have always seen this exhibition as a landmark for contemporary drawing. Carel Blotkamp was probably the first to introduce the concept of autonomous drawing in the accompanying catalogue. The curious fact occurred that in the exhibition, which took place in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, he only showed abstract drawings.

In many of the drawings that I want to show here, I will look for variety in content and in technique. It is also about craftsmanship, vision and fantasy. But there is also 'playing' with concepts such as illustrative and decorative. Concepts that were not seen as qualitative for a very long time. This online exhibition proves more than enough that these are autonomous visions, that you can play with concepts such as decorative and illustrative. It is more than clear that many of the works have a figurative starting point. And in that sense it all fits in perfectly with the present time, in which that figuration, especially in drawing, still has the upper hand. The boundaries of drawing, for example, in that direction of abstraction have not yet been explored very much. If we make a comparison with painting, you see much more abstraction there than in contemporary drawing.

In many cases, making a drawing is no more and no less than provoking a derailment. No matter how controlled the artist develops his image, there often comes a point when control no longer seems so important, when things are intense in the mind and that translates into the drawing. Although bookshelves are full of speculation about what a work of art, and in this case a drawing in particular, could mean and how the work could be interpreted, some modest and hesitant writing has been written about contemporary drawing. Perhaps it is so difficult to theorize about a drawing because it is the most intimate and personal form of expression in the visual arts. Drawings are mainly testimonies of processes. They may have a theoretical starting point, but there comes a point that sensibility seems to take over from technique and then the spirit and life come into a work. The inspiration and vision become tangible and the more they become tangible, the more difficult it is to describe. For me, the basis of a drawing is mainly hope and not a reason. Even more often it is breaking down and then breaking out. Two Irish writers described this independently. Samuel Becket wrote: fail again, fail better and John McGahern break down and break out. So work towards something unknown.

Always further a drawing is often all or nothing. Pathetically speaking, drawing for me is exploring the back of the soul, the mind and the heart. Making a drawing therefore always balances on the edge of a confession. Usually a drawing is a confession, about melancholy and longing, about doubt and certainty, about reality and fantasy. A drawing sometimes seems like a materialized dream that is mainly about abolishing knowledge. The drawing is also a monument to the poetics of the artist, in which signs pointing back as well as pointing forward can be found. The immediacy of many drawing techniques is, in most cases, an obvious factor for sensitivity. Clarity, obscuration, change, concealment, immediacy are all concepts related to a secret desire to find things that were not there before. In that resulting, drawn image, there is something of what was suspected and what was reached for. On paper it has acquired its outline and its meaning. That final cohesion of lines and spots, lines that traveled across the paper, spots that arose impulsively, that has become the image, that is the drawing. Finished!

There is always the hope that the drawing creates a transmission from me to the viewer. Everything has a beginning and setting, a line can start a process, even direct it. I know it happens, excitement can arise, because I see "something" developing on the paper. I feel that something special is happening. I admit it. I have to face it. I feel that I am at the beginning of 'something', after all, it is in front of me. An hour ago there was nothing, a minute ago nothing, now there is something and I am responsible for it. But any explanation about the creation of a drawing may be too much. Let silence reign more. Let the silence do its job. Due to the static that many drawings and paintings already have anyway, there is always a silence in the artwork. Every line remains a vehicle, every line has a degree of sensitivity, every form that arises seems like a necessity. The line therefore initially seems to be the vehicle for the mind, it steers, it searches, it responds to the moment and sometimes derails for a moment in the complexity of a number of lines mixed together. Artists are able to arrive at an original image every time with something as simple as the line. Marksmanship, but also motor skills and of course technique and vision determine whether a drawing acquires a quality that you can call original, authentic. Control, condensation, concentration and daring determine the image that the artist wants to show us. Everything was possible, everything was there.

Arno Kramer
Mei 2023