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“Looking and Listening”: Notes from short essay by Eileen Hogan

“How does personal knowledge of the subject change a portrait? What happens when the sitter speaks?”

[featured image: Eileen Hogan, Ian Hamilton Finlay Walking Towards the Roman Garden, 2009, charcoal on paper, found in Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 53]

“I was left free to register the relationship between spoken testimony and the facial movements of the narrator, who became the subject of my drawings and portraits.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 52
  • drawing people from life whilst in conversation with them is such a great way of building a connection between the sitter and the artist!
    • gives the two the space to connect and build trust – a safe space to share stories
    • words translating into their facial movements, which the drawer can try to observe and recreate with their hand movement – a reflection of the sitter – a display of reciprocation
  • spends around 3 hours per session where the sitter is asked to give their oral history – is asked questions about themselves – as a result there builds a conversation based on that telling, between the sitter and the artist, or the interviewee and the interviewer
  • watching and observing the people as they speak about their lives – very INTIMATE setting and INTIMATE stories

“My studies were unfinished, and ‘unfinishedness’ became a deliberate part of my process. I was capturing the sitter in a state of flux, physically animated but also mentally moving through time.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 56
  • not feeling the need to finish their work seems to be a common theme running through the artists I have been looking at in this term, and actually for a while now
  • the ‘unfinishedness’ I think can be seen as a direct reflection and response to the act of conversing, in that scenario – what the person / people say in the interview won’t be polished or rehearsed, so why should the drawing of them be any different?
    • again, it has this rawness and authenticity to it that can’t exactly / always be atcheved through any other technique and/or medium
    • just like speech and thought process, which it reflects (in some respects), the unfinished drawing is BROKEN and FRAGMENTED and doesn’t have a clear and thought out structure, rather it is DYNAMIC and SPONTANEOUS
      • similarly, when recalling memories – it is a state of constant flux, just like speech (both based on our intrapsyches) and so the process is also very dynamic and very spontaneous – led by unconscious or very primal / intuitive behaviours and patterns
  • by being able to experience the same space as the sitter, we are somewhat let into their thinking process and thus somewhat to the essences of their personalities, especially when combined with gestures and physical articulations of what they are saying – we see their constant need for change
    • the physical evidence of them and the conversation is very closely tied in with the flux of their minds

Also a NOTE to myself: need to look at the work and research of Eileen Hogan, because I am absolutely drawn to the photograph of one of her drawings that is in the book!