The art of making drawing

Alan Franklin, speaking at One Church Street Gallery about his work in the exhibition Precession
6th March 2014

I enjoy questioning the world we live in and responding to that.  For example, what colour is the universe?  Take time to work it out.  We are no better off knowing that the universe is turquoise, but it’s a good thought playing with these questions and thinking ‘What if…’

After nearly 30 years of making 3D pieces, I wanted to make drawings like flat sculptures.  After all, drawing is much more convenient for storage.  I draw on a square to avoid references to landscape or portraits.  The brown paper around the edges refers to the making of the drawing, where I have stretched the paper, and so the edges do not refer to the edge of the paper and the thing in the middle feels like it can be lifted off.   There is a game to be played between illusion and not illusion.  I don’t intend to make an illusion of space in my drawings but I believe rules are there to be stretched.  I like the term ‘making a drawing’ and using materials in an unconventional way.

Looking at Eight by Four, mdf, iron wire, 1994 (see picture above).  Originally I was working a lot with mdf, constructing different things.  I was spending a lot of time going to builder’s timber yards and buying sheets of 8×4 mdf.  At that time I was thinking, ‘well, if we buy all our sheet materials in this unit size, it’s not surprising that our rooms and buildings end up as variations on a box’ and I thought, ‘well okay so I’ll take an 8×4 sheet of mdf and I’ll make it flexible; I’ll stop it being a flat sheet and make it somehow more organic’.  I improvised a mechanism for doing that.  The surprise or the thing that makes the work for me occurred as a result of the making.  After I’d cut up all the units and I’d drilled holes, this way and that way, and started to thread them onto the wire, I found that the friction was so great that it was too difficult to get the wire all the way through.  So I then drilled out the larger holes in 50% of the pieces, just to reduce the friction and enable me to get the pliers in there and pull.  So it was by solving the problem and coming up with a solution that visually made the piece successful for me. It’s those little things that happen as a result of the making.

Looking at #50, black graphite on paper, 615 x 615mm, where I use a stencil (a mask) to keep the graphite in that area but the graphite dust just falls and comes through at the bottom there.  My first thought was to rub that out, and then the second thought was that actually no, that’s what I like – it reveals a little bit about the process of the making.  And that happens quite often, I think.  It becomes a sort of strategy – you know that if you do something in a certain way it’s going to create these little blips and it’s thinking about those processes and strategies to encourage the wobbles.

Some drawings are more successful than others.  Why do I like some drawings more than others?  Something seems to happen with some drawings where I get a little bit more of a surprise than I had expected.  It takes me on a journey because while I’m drawing and a surprise happens, I’m thinking about what the rule will be for the next drawing and considering what if.  Time, labour and love are adopted for the sake of the journey and hope that it will result in some sort of quality.  Maybe I’ve come full circle and I now have an urge to make sculpture more drawn.  I’ll follow the journey wherever it may take me.

Alan Franklin