Drawing, one would tend to assume, is pretty simple stuff – after all, everyone does it, in one way or another. Schoolkids add moustaches to historical figures in their textbooks, office-workers doodle idly while pretending to pay attention in endless meetings, and sometimes it’s just faster to convey an idea to someone by grabbing the nearest bit of spare paper and tossing off a quick sketch. This elemental simplicity comes into play in the title of Yeo Workshop’s latest show – an exhibition of drawings titled, surprisingly enough, ‘A Drawing Show.’ In an age of ever-multiplying, ever more sophisticated media for artists to work in, what’s the place of what might be the simplest medium of all?
Of course, the simplicity of drawing doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s somehow crudely deficient, as stone tools would be compared to, say, a surgical scalpel. It hints, instead, at its foundational character in visual art, forming the basis of fundamental concepts like line and form, which are then propagated through the diverse menagerie of media available to artists today. At the same time, the proliferation of media allows for the emergence of different perspectives on these basic building blocks, giving artists the context in which to explore, investigate, and even re-assess the nature of drawing itself.
Viewed in this light, even the basic act of taking pencil to paper boasts a wealth of possible significance, as we might encounter in the seductive grace of Ian Woo’s drawings. His amorphous forms, verging on the geometric and resisting any simple readings, seem at once both opaque and transparent, the patterns and almost-patterns sprawling across our field of view according to their own logic, somehow reminiscent of floaters and other oddities of human vision. It’s best, perhaps, to discard any attempt to decipher them as abstractions or representations of something or another, and allow your eyes and mind to wander through these visual territories.
Presenting a stronger sense of rootedness are works by Boedi Widjaja. Though we might imagine that the basic procedure of drawing consists of making marks on a given surface, Widjaja adds a layer of depth – in physicality, and history – by deriving these marks from rubbings of surfaces he encountered during a residency in a medieval French village. In effect, the works act as a medium or interface between two very different senses of place, drawing a line between surface worn by history, and the coolly timeless space of an art gallery, with the former also intruding into the latter in Widjaja’s eschewing of conventional display of his densely textured works, opting instead for prosaic materials like brick and glass.
Wong Lip Chin’s works take yet another perspective on drawing, taking the solidly graphical traditions of animation and distributing them throughout the gallery. While each glyph or drawing certainly remains on a two-dimensional surface, the body of work as a whole is distributed through the space, confounding easy distinctions between drawing and site-specific installation, perhaps as some wry mutant offspring of the free-spirited character of (non-commissioned, distinctly unofficial) graffiti and street art.
Much as drawing a line requires one to move a pencil (or pen, or other implement), the show, taken together, reminds us that drawing isn’t some static, stagnant, subsidiary thing to be looked over in favour of media of greater purported sophistication – even the simplest of systems and rules can lead to exponential depth and complexity.
A Drawing Show runs until Sep 14, 12 to 7 pm Tue to Sat, 12 to 6 pm Sundays, at Yeo Workshop, #01-01 1 Lock Road, Singapore 108932. Closed on Mondays and public holidays. Free admission.
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