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On the 25th of November, I exhibited at One Night Stand, a one-night-only show at the Telfer Gallery with Mag Chua, Sarah Laing, Stuart McAdam and Minka Stoyanova, curated by Dane Sutherland. The show was a culmination of a very short two week residency we were invited to participate in, which began with no fixed ideas and in a sense, ended that way too.

The work on display was a varied and interesting take on what exhibitions do;  Sarah’s beautiful floor drawing that offered the dilemma of whether to talk on it or jump over it, Minka’s ingenious webcam summit, Mag’s solicitous offer of handwarmers and Stuart’s distillation of the whole art-opening experience. As for myself, I decided on a you-know-what, with a bit of a difference;

(Thanks to Mag for the photographs – I can’t take pictures for toffee. Or fudge, marzipan or nougat, now you come to mention it)

As you can see, I did this on perspex with fine permanent marker- an interesting experience! If nothing else, perspex is slippery stuff.

The idea was to create a drawing in three stages. The first is this one here – which depicts the past 13 days of discussion in the gallery itself. You can see that better on this picture;

The perspex was hung from the ceiling, which created an initial illusion of it being hung on the wall. A second perspex sheet, with just a basic floorplan drawn out was provided on a table and chairs in the gallery itself – you can see here how it was laid out (if you ignore the grinning fool to the right).

All the visitors on the night (and there were loads!) were free to use the marker pens provided to add their own notes, drawings and experiences to this plan, hopefully taking the original as a cue. You can see the result here (this is my photograph and is, as a result, rubbish) after I hung the second sheet over the first at around 9.30 in the evening.

What you can hopefully see here is that of course, many people effectively ‘drew over’ my original drawing. Some tried to be ‘dialectographic’ themselves; others drew cartoons, silly stuff and so on, all of which is fine and to be expected perhaps, at an event that was a not always comfortable mixture of opening night and exhibition. From a ‘fine art’ perspective the result was perfectly alright and visually interesting in itself. From a design perspective rather problematic, as the drawing lost its readability.But as an experiment, it was hugely valuable and has given me plenty to think about in terms of making the drawing process more collaborative and open. This will not be the last time I use perspex…

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So, the next Dialectogram is very (very) imminent – so while you wait, and because you never asked for it, here’s another postcard sized illustration from the literary world –

It’s from James Kelman’s Busconductor Hines. Kelman is generally taken to be an arch-realist and purveyor of grit, but this passage from his first novel is almost metaphysical in nature, and to my mind, encapsulates the titular character very well. So what is it about then? Well, here’s the whitespacecubegallery style caption…

In attempting to illustrate this segment, I ended up thinking about the philosophical concerns of the text, the way the main character’s anarchic imagination bucks against both the rhetoric of authority and his own variable capacity to adjust to prevailing realities.

Except that description describes a sequence of events entirely at odds with reality.  I flicked through the book for some time and had thought of a composition I thought was very clever. The Hines character would seem to emerge out of a particular piece of text – here it is from my notebook –

The idea has its merits. The quote in this image is from another part of the novel where Hines is considering buying a gun. I like how the spinning revolver seems to be turning itself on Hines  – in the novel, he obsesses about getting a gun, but we never know why – to use on others, or himself? However, it is perhaps a little too literal. I found it a bit of a strait-jacket and the composition became increasingly staid as the postcard size was much more punishing than the leaf in my notebook. None of the attempts satisfied me, or had any sense of fluidity about them, so I ruined a couple of nice acryllic boards pursuing an idea that wasn’t quite going to come good.

So it was almost in exasperation that I began drawing, without pencilling first, the figure in the foreground of the final image. Liking the sense of movement in my Hines here, I drew in other positions for him to take. Seeing that his hands seemed to be grabbing at something, I added the ball (I could easily have left it to the viewer’s imagination, I suppose) and the LAST thing I did was actually select a piece of text that fitted the image. I had to look long and hard – I knew this illustrated something about the novel, but I did not know what exactly.

And that’s all there was to it.

I’ll admit it, I’m pleased with this one. Dialectograms tend to be quite ‘static’ in nature so it is nice to get a chance to draw bodies in motion and focus on things other than the correct arrangement of bingo seats or the correct name for a box room! The discipline of working in this postcard sized form is also appreciated; if your marks fall outside the tiny frame, they’re lost , so make every stroke count and think carefully about where you put things (a useful lesson for the big drawings too). So I shall do more.  I have  other excerpts from authors I likecued up for this treatment, so expect more postcards from nowhere in particular.

There is more to life than dialectograms…at least, so I’ve been told. Dialectograms are not the only products of my fevered imagination, so I will use this page to share info on other projects I have been involved in.

So, to start off with, here is an image I submitted to the Poste Restante exhibition at an Tobar. This was a group show in which artists, illustrators and designers were issued with small postcard sized canvases and asked to put something on them. These were then sent up to the gallery and put on exhibit (and up for sale – I priced mine at £35 and it didn’t sell, which, given the slightly gloomy slant of the piece, wasn’t really surprising).

It was inspired by a quote from Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet which is fairly typical of his caustic, double edged aphoristic style.

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