OlENA MARTYNUK “Introduction to the Project”

    1382328_547402565348408_1675704065_n Recently the Kyiv gallery Atelier Karas, which mainly presents Ukrainian art of the classic art ‘technologies’, initiated a project called “Artists Draw”. A contest was announced, which offered well-known Ukrainian artists and just about anybody a chance to submit their drawing. The artists’ creativity was limited by a minimum number of drawing tools (a ball-point pen of either black or blue color) and a format of works (a standard sheet of stationery paper of A4 format). An artist’s vague role in the contemporary society («an artist is a not some kind of a human, rather a human is a kind of an artist» (Hakim Bey); “Anyone is an artist” (Joseph Beyus) brings to losing one’s belief in the stability of this notion as a verifying discourse. Therefore, the slogan “Artists draw” directly refers to a tradition of pastiche, post-modernistic irony, which marks the weariness of these or those functions of an author or a work, but without a parody effect, for example. Something, which cannot be called a new discovery, is stated here without excessive dramatization or sarcastic laughter: a total sliding of signifiers without signifieds. Art is imitated by artists, who in their turn imitate the role of artists. Some subjects commit a joint art practice in a single space. Elegantly mocking in its original intention, the project must ease the heaviness of metanarrative of professional dominant, which weighs upon an artist, and offer the masters of the brush to abstract themselves from their function and at the same time offer anybody else who wants to express themselves in graphic form by ‘submerging’ into this loose function of an artist. Because one way or the other, we are originally engaged in the process of deriving meanings from images, which are once again created or which already exist (ready-made). And ‘artists’ differ from ‘non-artists’ only by their self-positioning. What can resolve an issue critical to modern art for people who are not at all a single balanced collective body – namely, the issue of the integrity of a group project? The format of works became a factor of unity and integrity in “Artists Draw” project. White office paper of standard size was presented to all the participants as a strict format, which contributed to easing one’s formal uneasiness. A somewhat paradoxical formulation has a rather logical base: the absence of the need to choose a format and the means for expression liberate the artists. In such a way, the format became the context and atmosphere of the exhibition, while at the same time the works became a programmed contingency. One possible goal of “Artists Draw” is discovering people’s inner reserves, who draw either because their profession dictates this or because of their vocation. Such a discovery is achieved through attaining maximum freedom from creating personal stylistic tasks. Here one possibility occurs for people who consider themselves artists – namely, the possibility of relieving the huge pressure created by any professional sphere; the artists can refuse from their own style for the sake of stylistics and even stylization. Like being on the periphery of a professional artist’s career, such a project frees up the energy of competition and directs it into ‘the stream’ of art as it is – this is a transfer of the surrounding reality into live things on paper. This effect is enhanced by involving other people who simply draw, but are not engaged in art in the professional sense. We can summarize two points, which are obviously important for this project: optional experience and hobby plus a person’s individual self-expression outside of his/her author’s style. Here a concept of «doodles» comes to mind – mechanical scribbles on paper when you speak on the phone or sit at some meeting or graffiti aesthetics embodied by a high school kid while sitting at the last desk in a classroom. It is customary to conditionally relate accumulation of subconscious hodge podge with psychoanalysis – such drawings are viewed as a coded path to people’s subconsciousness. A paradigm of such a disclosure has made a collection of “doodles” rather popular (see Russell M. Arundel’s book titled «Everybody's Pixillated»). It is quite possible that something scribbled by well-known people discloses their non-public life to some extent. However, no one was planning to engage in disclosing other people’s lives in “Artists Draw”. So, the necessary result of this initiative is baroque variety, a ball-point pen’s sophistry deprived of a feeling of guilt. If art according to Theodor Adorno starts from irresponsibility, then an artist (being an autonomous constant that creates senses) must be distinguished by an ability to take irresponsible, useless and senseless actions. Ideally, the acceptability of any tools, styles (engravings by Albrecht Durer and Leonardo da Vinci, comic books about Superman, Barnett Newman’s and Donald Judd’s minimalism, Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art, ‘husk’ of accidental texts) creates a tough reckless eclecticism executed in the technique of consummate scribbles. The idea of “Artists Draw” is close to Vladimir Nabokov’s aesthetics, who rather strongly advocated the appropriateness and undoubted value of ‘light trifles’ in art. Total, even though programmed randomness of drawings in A4 format presents a refined nature of such ‘light trifles’, as well as freedom from any genre, style, aura and other attributes of art, which have been permanent throughout different times. Thus, “Artists Draw” appears to be a somewhat open structure, which offers the opportunity for lightened self-reflection and later the results of such self-reflection are placed into a cultural-plastic membrane of direct creativity. Being conceptual in its essence, the task of restoring of artists’ naïve views has undoubted prospects in terms of the project’s entry into the context of topical and relevant modern art. The project becomes an academic modern art, which is one of the final products of society’s functioning and itself breaches local structures of hierarchies. If one extrapolates all of the above information on the first batch of the project’s works, which have already been presented in the gallery, then ‘the kaleidoscope’ of the first ‘harvest’ already can impress with interesting findings in terms of combination, selection and the creative results in A4 format themselves. A council of curators, which have voluntarily burdened themselves with a task of ‘authorship’, selected about fifty works out of a total of a hundred works submitted to the project. Laconic lines, chaotic flourishes, search for images, minutes of meetings, notes, abstractionists’ figurative expression and triumph of abstract lines over a plot in figurative artists’ works is weaved into a live structure, which vibrates with senses and penetrates the ‘author’s’ commentary. Olena Martynuk Kiev, March 2007

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