Line drawing has always been an important part of what I do as an artist – I love to draw a sweeping line which twists back on itself, free and full of movement. I feel that line, unlike flat shapes, can describe movement and fluidity, especially when it has been drawn quickly, blindly, swoopingly. Line drawing translates so well from pen and paper to wire and blacksmithing, allowing a very solid material to seem like it’s been sketched in the air.
Using different media can have huge differences in the way you create a drawing. When drawing on paper with a pen you begin with an empty sheet and add a line to it, whereas when drawing in steel you begin with a line which you bend to your idea. Stone carvers often describe their practice as setting free the form which is already within the stone by removing stone from around it. I think it’s interesting to look at where my work fits on this scale of release to accretion – is it created or reformed? Does it come into being?
Sometimes I feel that the steel tells me what to do. When I begin my work I hammer the steel to break the monotony of the line, to prevent it from being static and straight. The hammer marks and the flattened parts all have a big influence on where the steel wants to bend and move when I come to use it as a drawing material. It leads me to make work which has an in built character.
Three artists who explore line as an important part of their work are include Picasso, Fred Sandback and Maya Selway.
Picasso- Etude pour Mercure Fred Sandback Untitled Maya Selway Kishu Candlestick
Picasso’s single line drawings seem immediate and full of movement, Fred Sandback uses lines to draw large, flat shapes in rooms which give the impression of being solid, and Maya Selway makes three dimensional objects which feel ghostly in their almost unfinished state. All these artists use line to describe spaces, but in the simplest ways. They use line in completely differently, from the incredibly loose to the very structured and terse but all retain a sense of fluidity and depth, allowing the viewer to fill in the rest of the shape with their imagination.
It’s interesting to think about what drawing is for. It can be the recording of places and objects which will become a painting or sculpture. It can be the way we note down what is in our imagination, and as a way to understand processes, or as a way of thinking things over. It can be a way of translating images and explaining ideas to others. Often this is the way drawing is traditionally used in blacksmithing – drawing for design. But what seems more interesting to me is drawing as an object in itself. As photography and computer aided design have helped to fulfil some of the roles previously carried out by drawing, by recording or translating faster and in more detail, it has had to carve out a slightly different area for itself, by being ‘fine art’.
In the words of Henri Matisse “drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence” and I hope that by creating these drawings in steel I am giving them an even greater feeling of permanence and solidity.