Dr@w Event: ‘Drawing Explained’ by Stephen Farthing

This event was an opportunity to view Stephen Farthing’s film-in-progress Drawing Explained; hear a panel discussion with him, the artist Paul Noble and Isobel Seligman, from the Print and Drawing Department at the British Museum; and give feedback on the film.

Professor Farthing said he wanted the film to ‘encourage conversation about drawing’ and to ‘lift drawings out of the art-room’. But the film itself was rather shapeless. Large sections of it were about the Drawing the World project, part of last year’s Big Draw event in October. I was interested in the challenges that arose when getting a team of people to draw an outline map of the world, on the face of it a recognisable image common to us all. Other sections of the film showed Prof Farthing himself drawing a small map of the world and using the process to talk about how he makes a drawing and the differences between a drawing of something and the thing itself, between a drawing and a cartographic map.

But I kept waiting for something to happen, some point to be made or some key question to be raised.

In the panel discussion, everyone seemed to agree that there was no single approach to drawing and there did not need to be. Also that artists were under no obligation to explain their drawings, but educators could usefully explain to students what drawing could be.

Stephen Farthing ended up saying that he thought the film was not very interesting, and I have to agree with him. It seemed to me that out of a desire not to be prescriptive or constrain other approaches to creativity, he avoided taking up a position and ended up not knowing what the film should say or do.