A day of Drawing Performance workshops with artist Ram Samocha from Draw to Perform. Tuesday, February 19th 2019. CIT Crawford College of Art and Design in collaboration with Backwater Artists Studios, Cork, Ireland.
Over 30 undergraduate and postgraduate students from CIT Crawford College of Art and Design Cork attended a Drawing Performance lecture and workshops on February 19th 2019 that was led by artist Ram Samocha from Brighton based Draw to Perform collective in the UK.
The day began with an informative introductory lecture that gave a comprehensive overview of drawing as performance under headings including Live Drawing Actions, Drawing with Unconventional Materials and Drawing in Public Collaborations. These headings were an excellent way to help the students understand the range of processes that are encompassed by the drawing performance movement. There were historical references to help put the practice of drawing as perfomative act into context and the more contemporary references, such as Trisha Brown, Paul McCarthy and Tonya McMullan gave the students a sense of the relevance of drawing performance in contemporary practice. The questions from the students at the end of the lecture indicated a keen interest in learning more and they were very interested in Ram Samocha’s own practice and how he integrates his private studio work with his more public, performance based drawing practice.
Workshop One: In the morning workshop fine art undergraduate students from Years 2, 3 and 4 worked on essential aspects of live drawing and performance such as movement, mark-making, collaboration and duration. The session started with warming up exercises for both the body and the voice. Art students often overlook warming up before physical activity so it was very good to see them learning the importance of this method of preparation.
Ram then moved incrementally through a series of exercises that focused the students’ attention on paper, beginning with A4, and using varying levels of control over the marks they made on the paper. There was plenty of time for discussion and the pace of the exercises meant that the less experienced students were able to participate fully while the more experienced students could still expand their range.
Moving on to A1 size paper the students were then encouraged to engage with the paper in innovative ways before they made a mark on it; to make sounds with it for example and to explore the paper through movement with their bodies. These techniques then informed the marks they consequently made on the paper using graphite.
The final exercise of the morning workshop used a long roll of paper rolled out along the floor and up the wall. The students moved/walked/crawled/slid up the paper making marks as they went using charcoal individually, one after the other. Then, starting at the top of the paper on the wall they moved as one, collaboratively, and guided by Ram, down the paper, slowly using coloured pastel, all the way to the end of the paper on the floor. They then lifted the paper off the floor, again collaboratively, and walked it back towards the wall scrunching it up as they walked. Their levels of energy were heightened by this stage and they were totally engrossed in holding up this huge ball of a drawing over their heads for as long as possible before letting it fall to the ground and stamping on it. It was clear that the students got great satisfaction and enjoyment from this final exercise which expanded the rang of how they used their bodies and voices and how these actions can be augmented into their studio practice and as an introduction to public performance.
Workshop Two: Postgraduate students and members of the Backwater Artist’s studios participated in the afternoon workshop where they explored methods of drawing that restricted physical control combined with a more controlled approach to open up new possibilities of mark-making and expression.
The introductory exercise encouraged the participants to work with a flat microphone on the floor to amplify the sound of the marks they made on paper or make more deliberate sound effects in whatever way they liked as a way of introducing themselves individually. This was an innovative and new experience for most if not all the artists in this group and they produced some very interesting responses.
They were then asked to pair up to take turns in holding up their sheet of paper while their partner tries to make marks on it. Then to swap over to do the same exercise but with eyes closed to increase a sense of embodied sensory awareness. Further variations on working in pairs and working in an uncontrolled way and a controlled way followed with plenty of time for discussion and reflection. This group of artists really welcomed the opportunity to challenge embedded habits and ways of thinking and to embrace new ways of thinking and making through performative methods.
The final exercise was particularly helpful in consolidating the preceding approaches and for expanding their range of marking-marking skills. Still working in pairs the artists stapled large sheets of paper to the wall with the first of the pair working with their back to the wall making marks with graphite anyway they can without being able to see exactly what they are doing until they step away after 10 minutes of work. Their partner then took over but this time faced the drawing and working in colour for 10 minutes in a controlled way responding to the marks already on the paper.
For these experienced artists to sit and watch someone else work on paper before them or to watch as someone else draws on top of their work was quite a challenge but one that they all found very revealing and inspiring. Many of them remarked afterwards that they had not realised how ingrained some of their habits had become and that this workshop had opened up new ways of working, performing and collaborating that they would never previously considered.
Second year photography students Franka Flötgen and Rachel Daly took photographs of the event. Third year multi-media student Trevor Boyle provided video and sound documentation.
Dr Helen Farrell
Lecturer, CIT Crawford College of Art and Design