How to Draw? An artistic exploration of today’s ways of drawing.
Drawing might as well be the earliest form of artistic expression. Let Them Draw, the ambitious group show project of SARIEV Contemporary, proves (again) that this art form could be as diverse as art itself.
Igor Eskinja, Mind-body problem, 2017, detail, site-specific installation, SARIEV Contemporary
In 2016, SARIEV Contemporary invites Bulgarian artist Pravdoliub Ivanov to curate an exhibition about drawing. An idea which rapidly turns into an ambitious project exploring the variety of the contemporary artistic approaches towards drawing. Entitled Let Them Draw, the project invites seventeen internationally working artists to offer their own unique and diverse perspective on one often-underestimated art form. Art connoisseurs might find among them Luchezar Boyadjiev, Mariela Gemisheva, Pravdoliub Ivanov, Nestor Kovachev, RASSIM®, Kiril Prashkov, Kalin Serapionov, Dimitar Shopov, Nedko Solakov, Kamen Stoyanov, Valio Tchenkov, Krassimir Terziev, Kosta Tonev, Iv Toshain, Ignacio Uriarte, Vitto Valentinov and Voin de Voin.
Pravdoliub Ivanov, Let them Draw, 2009, series of 12 B&W photos
“When I was invited to curate the show, I asked myself – can I give a brief answer to “what is drawing”? I tried but I couldn’t because there is always something left beyond the definitions. The show in fact resulted from my desire to prevent viewers to have a simple answer to that same question,” states Pravdoliub Ivanov back then. The success of that first edition both in proposing a bold new way to view and exhibit drawings and in creating new pieces leads in 2017 to a second group show bearing the same title and concept but also subtly subtitled Drawing and Withdrawing.
“Back then and now, my desire was and is to show the limitless field in which a drawing can be deployed—from the digital visualizаtion of software to the narrative of its own creation. This year, however, I wanted to focus more on what we may call traditional techniques and figurative imagery tricking the viewer into the trap of easy recognizability. My aim was to show works that contain the ability of a drawing to venture beyond its own frame of reference without changing itself, only to go back to its territory with a catch of "naive" viewers,” adds Ivanov today and gives the possibility to answer that question to a new set of artists. Among them figure Antonis Donef, Boryana Petkova, Dan Perjovschi, Igor Eskinja, Kamen Stoyanov, Krassimir Terziev, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Martina Vacheva, Michail Michailov, Mike Bouchet, Mladen Miljanović, Nedko Solakov, Pravdoliub Ivanov and Vitto Valentinov.
Answers made, sometimes, to trick the unexperienced, inattentive eye of the viewer. A child-like drawing of an elongated figure trying to score in what seems to be a basketball game meets the curious at the sleek glass door of the gallery. Both playful and completely serious, the work by young Bulgarian artist Martina Vacheva serves as an entry point to a show that sets up a world which goes beyond the imagery of a hand moving, the almost audible sound of a pen on paper and what the viewer thinks a drawing should look like. It opens an exhibition that liberates the drawing from the confinement of its own artificial categorization.
The curatorial trap is effectively set. At a first glance, Antonis Donef’s collage pieces seem innocuous, almost calm, but the ordered chaos of the intricate, complex drawings covering the old yellow pages sweeps rapidly that first impression. It’s a world that demands the viewer to immerse in it, only to get lost in search of the incomprehensible knowledge bleeding from the pages of the old auctioned books bought by the artist. Another play trap is laid by Nedko Solakov’s made-up nature series where light and darkness, in Boulgakov manner, can’t exist without one another.
At the center of the gallery space lays yet another mysterious, innocuous object. A big white book with gilded pages bearing a strange Latin title – Operantium. Its 1100 pages are covered with just as many drawings in a style that has become something of a trademark for the Vienna-based Bulgarian artist Kamen Stoyanov. However, Stoyanov’s drawings are seldom just that. In this case, they serve as a vestige of a 24-hour performance the artist executed in 2016. The project, Operantium, also retraceable in a video work, discusses the complex question of the speed and the quantity of the artistic production. A question that nowadays often plagues creation.
Video and drawing also explore each other in Boryana Petkova’s work Line. Based on a text by the French philosopher Louis Marin, the short film traces and retraces a space reminiscent of Marin’s discussion about border and utopia.
But the idea of limit or, rather, of non-imposing one, seems to permeate the exhibition as a whole. Pravdoliub Ivanov’s rule of the 2016 edition of Let Them Draw – “all media, materials and ideas are allowed” – applies here as well. The aforementioned Martina Vacheva’s entry drawing is the first of several works which use the gallery wall as a canvas. The work of Romanian artist and cartoonist Dan Perjovschi is another example. The choice of support and seemingly simplistic execution only heighten the message the work carries. A technique Perjovschi recently used as well in MoMA where he created a drawing during business hours for patrons to see. Those drawings presented a political commentary in response to current events.
Croatian artist Igor Eškinja applies another approach to the two-dimensional space of the gallery wall. His intervention shows its materiality, only to give the viewer the impression of a third dimension by the use of a large-scale drawing and a generic brown tape applied with a tape machine. A drawing that one could describe as an installation, or possibly an installation that could be described as a drawing.
Vitto Valentinov, Conscious Recollection, 2017, 4 interactive drawings
Vitto Valentinov’s tactile work Conscious Recollection raises similar open-answer question and proves that drawing could be both the object and the keeper of an immaterial memory. The idea of consciousness is also present in Michail Michailov’s drawing series Dust to dust. The gathering of dust and dirt in our consciousness as well as in the artist’s studio is depicted with colored pencils on paper effectively transforming it into strangely touching objects.
Equally touching is Krassimir Terziev’s work 2020. A Working Day. The near future set out in ink seems to look at us with the imminent force of its happening while Mladen Miljanovic’s Indigo Power drawings bring us back to the violence of present-day surveillance.
“All these artworks, so different from each other, show that whatever it does and whichever way it does it, drawing remains a universal interface, a pervasive communication tool that has become an additional sense for perceiving and understanding the world around and within us.” Pravdoliub Ivanov couldn’t be more right.
Let Them Draw II, SARIEV Contemporary, exhibition view, 2017
Let Them Draw II, SARIEV Contemporary, exhibition view, 2017