Naomi Kendrick: On Drawing.
Q and A - In conversation with Jay R E Ottewell.
In your blog “20,000 thoughts” I found it fascinating in which you said “A friend once told me that we have an estimated 20'000 thoughts a day. A search online and you will discover there is much debate around the exact number, it ranges from 12'000 to 80'000.” and this idea of rhythm and subtle act within your work is apparent. Almost like a reflection of the mind in some way. Do you feel your work tries to capture these thoughts? And do you feel there is a mindfulness to drawing?
I am trying to make visual the inner world we all inhabit, I am fascinated by that, it is an intangible place but for me it has shape, it shifts and holds its own rhythms. It is those rhythms, and sensations that are at the centre of my work, rather than trying to capture a sequence of individual thoughts.
I am also very interested in the psychological state our mind enters while drawing, and how the process of drawing itself can influence this. For my recent work I have been using very fine ink lines onto fragile paper, this has meant that these drawings take longer, my previous work with sound, and hypnosis were usually made at speed, for example with music drawings the mark lasted as long as a note. While making the drawings I am often reminded of other types of work, such as embroidery, tapestry, quilting, where time, lots of time, are woven in to them and with that, of course, thoughts, memories, daydreams. Often when I draw, no matter what time of day, I will find fragments of a dream from the previous night, appearing in my thoughts…
Yes, I think there is definitely a mindfulness to the act of drawing, it is an activity which can place you in a state of flow which is essentially being totally absorbed in the act and the moment. I think your mind wanders when you draw, but the drawing also brings you back from that wandering, to a mark, to what you are trying to achieve.
You've also described your “current work consists of thousands of tiny, time consuming, delicate ink lines, drawn on to fragile tissue or rice paper or discarded packaging paper, some have taken years to complete.” Why is using ink on rice/tissue paper as a support important to the work?
I am more and more interested in the sculptural potential of paper, the stuff of it, how it can be shaped, moved in space and manipulated by touch either by my own hand or through the drawing applied to it. The surface and the marks make up the drawing, rather than the surface just being a support. The fragility of the paper is important because for me that inner landscape, our mental state, holds this constant tension between strength and vulnerability, something I’ve been exploring a lot in my recent drawings.
The word ‘Brink’ often comes to mind, and a couple of my drawings are titled this. In my work there is often a battle between something vulnerable or fragile and a weight, a sense of something descending, rising or closing in. In work where there is no obvious mass invading, there remains a tension between the fragility of the surface paper and the multiple wet marks applied to it, the surface could drown in marks, or tear at any moment. But in the delicacy of those marks there is also a sense of healing, almost a celebration of that fragility. In this way the drawings relate to the Japanese art of Kintsugi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi
Can you expand on your relationship between these sculptural, creased forms and that of nature? i.e. you describe familiar patterns to the crumples and folds, like arteries, winter branches, veins in rock that take on this interpretation.
I think there is an obvious visual connection between nature and ourselves, when you look at medical images, glance down at the formation of veins in your wrists and compare these to a winter tree or a river from above… But beyond this, the rhythms, adaptations, fragility and resilience in nature, the movements within it are other but also familiar. Perhaps that is why we are turning to it so much right now, there is comfort in seeing this stuff around us continue, despite it all. There seems to be this rhythm and bodily movement within your work, is it more about the process and the act of drawing in your work that's important, the outcome or even both? All of it, drawing for me is all of these things coming together that make the drawing. From very physical performance work with music, to the quiet, still, medatitive process of my current work. I use the process, my body, sound, hypnosis, and other mental states in the same way as I also choose to use charcoal or ink, tissue paper or a giant roll of cartridge.
Your piece “Drawing Under Hypnosis (free from constraints)', Charcoal on paper” featured in the VR exhibit of Drawing Beyond Itself. How did the interest in hypnosis become part of your practice?
I had been drawing in response to music, working in collaboration with musicans David Birchall and Dan Bridgwood Hill ‘dbh’ and knew how powerful sound was in altering my state of mind, shifting it from one unexpected moment to the next (the musicians I worked with were always improvising) I knew of artists such as Henri Michaux who had experimented with mescaline to place them in a particular state and made drawings whilst ‘there’. I wanted to try hypnosis to see how this could work as another space to draw within, and so I began a collaboration with Psychologist Devin Terhune at Goldsmiths University.
Imagery, metaphor, poetry and visual forms shape most artistic and creative practices. Its how we navigate and make our own understanding of the world, and reflect it to others through sight. This sight, pushes our imagination to see new things. In your performances, is there a sensory input to the work? How does the music and the act of drawing change how we perceive drawing?
Yes, there is definitely a sensory input to the work. Though images dominate our lives, we perceive the world as a whole with all of our senses, I have always felt that the making and experiencing of art could reflect this more. Drawing has always been a constant but I have also made sculpture, installations and participatory work. The materials used and being hands on for this work is important to me. I want the audience to know this too, to be able to handle the work, carry out the processes themselves, hear it, feel it..
When drawing the physical contact with the paper and the materials is an important part of it. I like the least removed way of making a mark, which is why dust (charcoals and pastels) appear often in my work, applied with the edge of my little finger, a fist, or in the performances most of my body.
Can you tell us more about two year Arts Council England Funded Research and Development project 'Drawing as Experience'. As you collaborated in response to someone else's writing. Can you tell us more about this project and how do you think drawing can collaborate other contexts and mediums?
For Drawing as Experience I was trying to take my explorations of drawing as far as I could, capturing and evaluating that. I collaborated with musicians, other artists, a psychologist and workshop participants as part of this exploration. I really enjoy collaborating, I’ve always been slightly envious of the little community that is a band, visual art can be a solitary thing sometimes. I also run workshops and for me art is a jumping off point, a place of sharing and discovering through others, as much as it is a personal act of expression.
Nicola Schofield and I came together firstly through motherhood, I had written a blog post, which she had seen, describing the challenges of adjusting to life as a new parent and financially and mentally justifying making art work. Nicola, as a writer, felt the same, that there was so much we had not been told. We met and both said we wanted to talk about this honestly through our work, we were a bit afraid of doing that, but also knew it was the right thing. We ended up, along with musician Jennifer Hardy, working together to create drawings, music and writing alongside each other and also by responding to one another’s work. This all came together as a play, exhibition and soundscape at The Royal Exchange https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/after-birth
I like the idea of ‘responding to’ rather than attempting to translate or illustrate another artform, its then a form of conversation rather than a repetition.
Finally, what are your artistic influences, things that inspire you and help create your work?
Psychology, Nature, Henri Michaux, Maria Lassnig, Phylida Barlow, Frank Auerbach, Cave art, Anselm Kiefer, Peter Lanyon, Robert Morris, Anthropology, Waqas Khan, Georgia O’Keefe, Joseph Beuys, Janet Cardiff, Simon Woolham, Lygia Clarke, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, William Kentridge, Georgiana Houghton and many more.