(Jeff_L) #1


It is a pleasure to introduce what I hope will be
the first in a series of publications on drawing that
will grow out of conferences held on both sides of
the Atlantic. This first publication emerges from a
meeting held at Teachers College, Columbia Uni-
versity in New York City, October 28-29, 2011, in
which American and British artists and scholars
shared with each other the results of their practice
and research. If we had assumed beforehand that
the act of drawing had become peripheral, resistant
to ideas of innovation and engulfed by the recent
history of contemporary art, then this was robustly
challenged by the conference presenters. As we see
in their papers included here, drawing is an activity
that is engaged in by a wide spectrum of individuals
from artists to surgeons, psychologists to knitters
whose serious investigations offer a fundamental re-
evaluation of its practices as medium and discipline.
Within this climate of re-evaluation drawing has
migrated from a support practice within the fine
arts tradition to that of an independent medium
offering distinctive graphic possibilities altogether
its own. Drawing has become many things.
While in many ways these papers represent a
unique contribution to understanding art practice
as currently unfolding, with hindsight we see that
they bring into the contemporary arena ideas and
commitments of longstanding import. Questions
about drawing as invention, as thought, as personal
perception, as engendering the idea of the form of
things and about the relationship between inner
and outer ideas have migrated over five centuries
transposed from the mind of God to that of our

human selves. Similarly drawing as both a poetic-
expressive and scientific-discursive discipline as
explored in these papers has a long trajectory in
western art practice and scholarship. If the papers
call attention to ideas of long duration they also
make the practice of drawing newly relevant by
radicalizing the way we might ask questions about
marks and lines on surfaces. For the artists included
here present us with drawing not as representation,
abstraction, description or self-expression but as
drawing for-and-in-itself, a process of deep inquiry
into that which it is possible to know yet impossible
to say verbally. Cross-pollinating theories drawn
from cognitive-neuroscience, emotional, perceptual
and sensory domains researchers present draw-
ings not so much in terms of the linear structures
of language but as complex and layered processes
of mind. Both artists and researchers transcend
traditional hierarchies of value and knowledge and
reveal to us practices of thinking and aesthetic com-
mitment long suspected but never until now made
These papers invite us to consider seriously
the role and purpose of drawing in the education
of artists, children and adolescents. For by point-
ing to critical and intertwined habits of mind and
practice we may consider how the process of draw-
ing contributes to the creation and construction of
important knowledge. For drawing offers artists in
training a tool of thought and action that allows
them to stretch widely in their investigation and
sympathies, and for children and adolescents in
school offer possibilities to peer into their world of


Judith Burton

Teachers College, Columbia University

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