MacDonald, Juliet (2010) Drawing around the body: the manual and visual practice of drawing and the embodiment of knowledge. Doctoral thesis, Leeds Metropolitan University.

This thesis concerns drawing as a form of enquiry, figuration and knowledge, specifically relating to perceptions of the body and embodied experience. The primary method and object of research is the practice of direct mark-making in response to perceptual experience, here termed observational drawing. The skills and habits of this learnt practice have been destabilised: by attempting a phenomenological approach; by drawing faces and bodies in conditions of movement and change; by progressively subtracting elements of manual and visual control. Following from observational drawing, the creative research methodology incorporates other modes of drawing, re-working of scanned drawings, note-making, reading and writing. The thesis includes a written overview (Part I), and a digital archive of drawings (Part II), jointly comprising a narrative of the research process.

The study starts by considering drawing as a cognitive process; as a means of understanding corporeality; and as constitutive of embodied knowledge. Through drawing, issues are raised regarding the contingencies and contexts of my own observational practice, and the histories that inhabit it. A retrospective investigation through reading and writing has produced twelve texts, interconnected to become one website/diagram (Part III).

This research contributes to the growing recognition of art practice as enquiry. Part III of the thesis locates the manual/visual operations of drawing, and the rhetoric of the hand, eye and mind used to describe them, within an epistemological and historical context. This is done from the specific perspective of the creative practitioner. Reference is made to philosophical, art historical and feminist texts; to delineations of the animal and critiques of anthropocentric accounts of knowledge.

The conclusion identifies paradoxes within my practice, and oscillations in modes of looking, that characterise its knowledge-making operations. It is suggested such provisionality enables a multiplicity of figurative outcomes that can contribute to understandings of corporeal experience.

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