A pencil drawing of four white garlic bulbs and a ginger root on a white oval plate. The lighting is from every direction on the ceiling, rendering the subject flat. Every morning for several weeks, I have looked at that plate, white garlic on a white plate, and thought I must try to draw that. The white paper skin against the white pottery plate makes it hard to see what’s there. Even the cloves inside the open bulb are light, as is the ginger root at the back of the plate, providing little relief from the whiteness. It’s too much whiteness, so hard to see what going on. I had to draw it – to see if I could see it better.
I have been drawing still lifes from life since my mid-teens. I experience a transcendent feeling of connection to the things I draw. It doesn’t matter what they are or how beautiful or mundane they appear. The process of transcription of what I see to the paper is calming and spiritual. I am not competing with a photograph. I love to take photographs. But this is different. Every stroke of the pencil takes a special human imprint that the lens can never duplicate. Every mark has a part of me in it. And no matter how careful I am, I can never get it exactly right. So, I fill in. I have to improvise. I pull a little here and stretch a little there to make it look as close as I can to how I see it. But it never is. And those places where I’ve morphed and hidden are my little secrets. It’s no longer what is there, but what I had to make it with all my human limitations. But now it’s mine. It is a part of me on paper for all to see.
Drawing is how I started with art. As a child of 7 or 8, I drew the face of a mean pirate and hung it on the wall in my bedroom. Later that night, when the lights were out, I saw the face in the dark and grew terrified. This was my introduction to the power of drawing. A quote attributed to Michelangelo is, “Let whoever has attained the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.”
But this is also a work of conceptual art, a la Duchamp’ Urinal. Here is the concept:
A dried tree leaf is placed on a white paper napkin on a flat surface. The lights from above are difuse, reducing the shadows and making the entire scene fairly, but not completely flat. Then using several different graphite leads of three different hardnesses, an artist makes many marks on a new piece of smooth, white bristol board. When satisfied that the marks on the paper resemble the scene in front of him, the artist uses a camera to record a digital image of the paper with the marks. This digital image is then placed on a website in such a way that any visitors can download it and view it in their browser. The artist writes about it that it is both a drawing and a work of conceptual art. And so it is.Statement of conceptual art creation by John Pelham Black 2023-01-03 @ 11:23 EST.