Venice Interlude

Drawing sound is an act of performance and my recent works have explored the fundamental components of the act of improvisational drawing – particularly the tension between failure and resolution, and the balance between control and surrender. My works examine the cognitive processes that underlie our emotional relationship with Art.


By Claire Zakiewicz

I have temporarily left Venice for England, where I sit atop a look-out tower in the seaside town of Aldeburgh, which was home to the contemporary composer Benjamin Britten. I am listening to his cello works and looking out across the sea. I will be back here in July to do an intensive residency and exhibition, which will be a time to reflect upon what I did in Venice, continuing my examination with concepts from my last project “Impreceision: The Aesthetics of Failure,” and produce a new body of work.

In Venice during May I started a new project with the photographer Mark Edward Smith. I drew onto his huge photography backdrops in response to musical recordings, which provided a set duration as well as a structured pattern that I repeatedly listened to. I worked in a continuous motion, without stopping to look at the drawing. I focused my attention on the music and allowed my movements to be spontaneous, impulsively selecting colours. I used Meisner acting methods and contact improvisational dance techniques. The drawings were finished when the music stopped. Meisner told actors not to think and not to create but, rather, respond impulsively. Failures were embraced but the aim was to lose track of time and space.

Drawing sound is an act of performance and my recent works have explored the fundamental components of the act of improvisational drawing – particularly the tension between failure and resolution, and the balance between control and surrender. My works examine the cognitive processes that underlie our emotional relationship with Art.

Gestures are spontaneous, intuitive, but also shaped by conceptual metaphors – they present a figurative comparison in which one object or idea is understood in terms of another. Gestures connect multiple disciplines such as drawing, music and dance. They are forms of vitality – performative, temporal, cohering out of the body, noise, and objects whose presence and significance extend across modes of perception. Improvised gestural forms have a very different aesthetic from composed and perfected ones – like the contrast between a self-conscious actor and somebody acting in a timeless flow. Movements reveal a state of mind visible in the drawn trace. My works materialize movements.

I am drawing upon my experiences during the time in Venice where I was inspired by the works of the contemporary British painter Frank Auerbach (on display at Alma Zevi gallery) and his use of repetition and expressive gestural marks. The history of the gesture in Art can be traced back to the mark-making of Venetian Renaissance painter Tintoretto.

I am looking at self-portraiture, the use of my body and other female collaborators within the discourse of the representation of the female in Art. I have crafted characters to perform my drawings, such as a submissive, blindfolded draftsperson, who responds intuitively to touch or sound through gestural mark-making. In one recent performance, I moved further away from the source of control by becoming a paintbrush as I was moved like a tool by a composer/choreographer through improvised dance. During another performance, I created a drawing by manipulating the movements of an actor who drew in response to my own improvised soundscape. The draftsperson’s role was to instinctively respond to the sounds from moment to moment within a prescribed set of limitations.

While documenting and reflecting on these live drawing experiments, strange patterns became apparent. On one occasion, I drew without sight for one hour onto a 25” roll of paper in response to a live musician. My focus was on the music, which I responded to via automatic drawing. I lost track of my location in the room, but the resulting image was balanced with an impossible symmetry. Another performance, which I filmed, records my body returning to the ‘corresponding’ patches of colour when a collaborator passed pots of paints as I worked blindfolded for hours with my attention fixed on the sounds of the room.

Going forward I will continue to examine the differences between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ vision, and between perception and observation by drawing the same scene repeatedly through observation-by-sight during the day and blind-folded at night. The works will be produced from a dialogue between my own body, the breath, listening, seeing and remembering.

Photos: Mark Edward Smith

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