Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Drawing Water by Tania Kovats

  This is a book...that alters preconceived ideas about drawing
 Drawing Water is the catalogue and essays from the exhibition (of the same name) curated by artist, Tania Kovats held at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, May 2014.
I first came across Kovats's work in the form of her sculptures, cavernous voids that sat somewhere between natural forms and man-made pedestals. The environmental statement to her work was clear although until I discovered a copy of 'Drawing Water' in the bookshop I had no idea she was also prolifically interested and knowledgeable on drawing. In particular, Kovats uses drawing as 'a mechanism for exploration' or in her words,
'I draw to find my way out. Drawing fills the space when I'm not sure what I am doing. It's my mechanism for map-making and my search engine, even when I don't know what I am looking for.'
 'Fantastic!' I thought to myself. Wishing I had only found this insightful book before I completed my MA project report which was all about drawing as a 'drawing out'. Again some of the ideas I was exploring echoed by Kovats words in this book,
Hard to find, or difficult to see. Something gets found in the drawing-explained and measured and put into a language that can communicate beyond the failure of words. Drawing is a mechanism for exploration as much as a tool of representation.'
 Using the theme of the water in its many guises; the sea, the waves, rivers and rainwater, Kovats documents the diverse forms in which map-makers, writers, shipbuilders, whalers, soldiers, sailors, artists, archaeologists, cartographers, scientists, uranographers (mapping stars), engineers and dreamers have used drawing as a way of searching, understanding and looking. The book is a treasure-trove of curiosities and it is fascinating how the distinctions between scientific and precise drawings from map makers to that of artists and writers is blurred so that we almost view the maps as art and the expressive/representational work by the artists as documentation and record. Joseph Beuys's colour lithograph of a seal in the exhibition looks as though it could be an MRI scan of the same animal. There are a few artists that have intentionally adopted documentary style modes of presentation as part of their work, K P Brehmer's 'Sky Colours' (a series of watercolour shades or blue/grey recorded daily on graph paper) being one such example. From ancient carvings and maps to modern and contemporary art, Drawing Water also features work from, Francis Alys, Eva Hesse, Eric Ravilious, Gerhard Richter, Roni Horn, Tacita Dean, Alfred Wallis and many more. It is beautiful to look at as it is to read and I found it to be unpretentious largely due to the variety of drawing types it features, from the highly representational, to impressionistic and conceptual; there is something for everyone, but more importantly it demonstrates the diversity of drawing as a medium for communication and discovery.
Also read: Twice Drawn -Ian Berry, Jack Shear, Jean Fisher, John Berger,  On Drawing -John Berger, The Power of the Sea - Christiana Payne and Janette Kerr, Art as Experience -John Dewey

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