MacDonald, Juliet (2010) Drawing as a form of enquiry: paradoxical aspects. In: Observation : Mapping : Dialogue, Drawing Research Network Annual Conference, 14 Sep 2010, University of Brighton, UK. (Unpublished)

This paper is based on my recently completed PhD, a practice-led investigation into drawing as a form of enquiry. The thesis identified a number of knowledge-making operations enacted within the figuring process of drawing: delineating or negotiating boundaries; marking experiences; registering differences; describing relationships. The main focus of study was observational drawing, particularly of the body.

The word ‘observation’ carries connotations of detachment. The practice passed on through Western academic tradition, sometimes utilises a distancing mode of perception: the eyes are focussed in such a way as to flatten the visual field, map spatial relationships and make judgements of dark and light.

On the other hand, drawing from visual perception can also invoke an attitude of involvement and attentiveness. It can be a means of drawing closer. It is a direct, bodily engagement calling on animal sensation and gestural action. Drawing from the visual can be confusing, challenging and affecting.

The paper summarises some of the contradictions and oscillations found within my own practice, to generate discussion. It can be argued that drawing produces knowledge grounded in the materiality and specificity of bodily experience, but how does a concentration on vision, to the exclusion of other senses, skew such experience?

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