Anyone who draws is part of a very complex interaction of representations, yet often they do it unintentionally. This interaction largely exceeds what the draughtsman sets on the image plane. It includes it, but is not to be mistaken for it.

Firstly, there is the representation that the artist has of himself or herself, manifested in the exteriority of the line and in the images through which he or she shows himself/herself; and secondly, the value of use that society attaches to the drawings, as symbolic mediators of knowledge, thinking, perception – in short, their habitus; but there is also, simultaneously, the representation that we all make of the working models of drawing.

These representations are strongly determined by the rupturing narratives that shape the history of art and the post-disciplinary perspective of visual culture (see Petherbridge, 2011: 412): some of the main ones are those that are based on the hybridisation of processes, devices and languages, manifested in the laconic With My Tongue in My Cheek drawing by Marcel Duchamp; in the dissociation between the optical and the haptic, attempted in Blind Time Drawings by Robert Morris; and in the dialectic of “skill-deskill”, today linked to the impact of digital technologies and the images of synthesis in the processes of representation.

But the practice of drawing is characterised above all by the processes of continuity and reinvention of those aspects that, even in very different states of transformation, continuously emerge in these moments of rupture, like acts of guerrilla war of a graphic unconscious that permanently shakes the temporary awareness of contemporaneity (we draw the drawings that we have already seen, as Richard Serra said). They are the topoi of drawing, the places where the arguments to draw are sought. And these include practices such as direct observation (which is always a dialogic form of collaboration with what is observed) and the relationship between vision and gesture; instances like invention, appropriation and copying; categories such as the finite and the non-finite; conflicts like those that oppose the certainty of the line to the theatricalization of doubt in a gesture that regrets what it has done, or confront the substance of the outline where the gesture is fixed, with the suspension of the image where the gesture is held back as reserve – arguments that each generation reviews, reinvents and reintegrates into its own repertoires.

This is why drawing is not – and never has been – the exercise of a knowing what, but one of a knowing how: the practical knowledge where images are formulated as projections of a performing body – “and especially when viewing a drawing of the human figure, we are inevitably reminded of that” (Rosand, 2002: 16) – but also of a rhetorical knowledge  that generates a crisis on the normal use of images and artistic processes.

This rhetorical knowledge seems to be inscribed within the name itself – drawing > de-signare > de-signify – and opens a space for understanding drawing as the consented exercise of an irresponsibility that overrides our relationship with reality, with images and artistic practice itself, de-signifying them.


Year 2012
Type Book Chapter, Text in Catalogue
Publication Make Believe
Publisher Lugar do Desenho - Fundação Júlio Resende
Local Gondomar
Language Português, English