DR@W event: Stephen Farthing on Drawing and Writing: The Intersection

160204 DRAW at Chelsea Chris Offili ptg for web

This painting by Chris Offili presided over a DRAW talk by Stephen Farthing, Rootstein Hopkins Research Professor at UAL, on his research into the relationship between drawing and writing.

He regards writing, notation and drawing as linked because they are all 2 dimensional representations of multi-dimensional events. As Joseph Beuys said

Even if I write my name, I am drawing.

He suggested that when young children first start to write they are in fact drawing the letter shapes, not writing them as we do as adults. But one feature of letters is that they must be readable and conform with conventions about the language, so that they can be used to communicate meaning consistently. Drawing, however, has no such fixed key, nothing like an alphabet of meaning. He had considered whether all drawings were in fact a sort of measurement. Frank Auerbach is reported to have said that when he enters the studio, he is measuring his commitment to his work. So drawing might be a measure of something, but not measurement as we usually mean it.

Farthing argues that while we are taught to read and write, we aren’t taught to ‘read’ drawings, as though either it’s too obvious to need to be taught, or, more likely, we haven’t defined a way to do it.

He identified the following elements present in drawing as a possible starting point for such a method: gesture, knowledge, measurement, risk, patience, annotation, colour and wetness.

160204 DRAW event flyer for web