Graeme Todd A Parliament of Lines
“A drawing can be a number of things. It can be a sketch at the primary stage of artistic vision or the main vehicle of expression, an end in itself. It is a place where artists deliberate. More than any other medium, it reveals their intimate thoughts and workings. With a material presence and a labour intensive realisation, many drawings today are a reaction against the fleeting experience of images prevalent in our media saturated existence.”1 In late summer of 2011 Graeme Todd received an invitation from Euan Gray, an independent curator and artist, to take part in an exhibition that he was curating called A Parliament of Lines, to take place at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in May/July 2012 and touring to the Pier Arts Center, Orkney in March/July 2013 and RMIT Gallery, Melbourne , Australia in June/August 2013.
A Parliament Of Lines presents 15 artists, allworking at an international level and all have an exceptional understanding of their medium. They were chosen for their ability to create and maintain a distinct personal vision. All are Scottish or have passed through the Scottish education system. The focus is on five themes which endeavourto set up a dialogue between various artists. The themes are figuration; abstraction; landscape; sculptural investigation and film, photography and reproduction. The artists included in the exhibition are : Charles Avery, Paul Chiappe, Layla Curtis, Moyna Flannigan, Luca Frei, Euan Gray, Sam Griffin, Marie Harnett, Callum Innes, Alan Johnston, Andrew Mackenzie and David Shrigley and Graeme Todd.
Installation views of ‘A Parliament of Lines’ at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney, May 2013. Showing works by Graeme Todd, Euan Gray and Andrew McKenzie in the main gallery.
The main research strands that form the underlying concerns for Todd in the context of this group exhibition are: The relationship between drawing in relation to painting and how relative value thresholds are reached by certain formal inclusions or omissions such as colour, ground, scale and finish. Reference is made to the 'coloured ground' drawings of Albrecht Altdorfer (1480 - 1538) and Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) as a historical precedent. The relationship between early independent landscape depiction in Europe and the oriental 'floating world' concept of landscape space with particular reference to Seshhu Toyo (1420 – 1506) The relationship of the above to the 'colourfield 'painting in the mid twentieth Century, in particular to late works of Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968) specifically the ConcettoSpaziale (Spatial Concept) works consisting of holes or slashes on the surface of monochrome paintings to create what he termed “an art for the Space Age”.
Winter Landscape – Sesshu Toyo Dead Pyramus – Albrecht Altdorfer
The idea that the simple addition of a colour, for it's unique formal value, can change the reading of a drawing and place it alongside painting as an object of significance and worth is one that is intriguing to Todd and he has used this in recent works where the roles of drawing and painting are worked seperately and brought together in a layering process that is constantly evolving; this involves placing layers of drawing, mostly in ink, and alternating these with layers of painted activity to build up a work whose history can be read from the first marks to the last. This gradual build up of information that is 'sandwiched' between layers of varnish has an effect similar to Japanese laquer work and can be likened to the way that the past is preserved when a fly is trapped in amber. As a naturally grown structure, it combines concepts of pictorial space with the process of creation. The slow pace of the works gestation encourages a similarly prolonged engagement from the viewer as the works gradually reveal themselves; this is in deliberate contrast to the 'fast grab' of much of contemporary imagery.
“Untitled” –Acrylic, ink, varnish on panel, 2012 Graeme Todd
The pieces are worked on both horizontally and vertically to accommodate different types of activity, varying from fine pen and ink work to pouring layers of varnish which are done while the work is flat and more open work done on the vertical with marker pens and brushes. The works are improvised over a period of time that can vary from weeks to months and reflect a train of thought that is sustained and deliberate and is open to a “ world of open diversity and retrospective reflection in the studio that allows for improvisation and departure in the making of the new work” ...“This by no means distances (him) from the flow of the now, in fact his distance is a constructed bemused withdrawal to place( himself) at a vantage point from which he may have a very open view of the past and its conjunction with the present.” (2)
“Untitled” acrylic, ink, varnish on panel, 2012 Graeme Todd
The works produced for this exhibition were of significance to the artists further development through the focus on drawing's relationship with( and in) painting and tacit investigations into the art of the past - as something distant and trans historical. This has, in turn, raised further questions regarding the relationship between the past and the present as well as between forms and how the pursuit of one heirarchy leaves one at the other in a “strange loop” - “ What I mean by a “strange loop” is.....a shift from one level of abstraction (or structure) to another, which feels like an upwards movement in a hierarchy, and yet,...one winds up, to one's shock, exactly where one started out.” 3.
References 1. Euan Gray – Foreword - “A Parliament of Lines” 2. Alan Johnston - “Formlos ; The Transparent Mirror:A Mediaeval Abstract” 3. Douglas Hofstadter - “ I am a Strange Loop”