Weaving Time: Contemporary Drawing Projects
I work on a range of concurrent drawing projects that evolve over time through daily or weekly rituals. Each project is seeking a way to watch the fleeting changes that are woven by the passage of time.
For instance, every day I make a drawing loosely based on what I happen to be wearing that day. Each week I draw the building site that I see from my balcony and I took one Polaroid per week of a tree near where I work. Sometimes I explore the passing of a single day in my street and I redraw the little garden on my balcony every day, watching each leaf as it emerges and ultimately shrivels. Often these records of the quiet and ordinary things in my life become animations.
Trees inhabit time in their own special way. I tap into that slow rhythm by observing them as they change.
Drawing from the media
Since April 2013, I have been making a drawing of what I wear each day. The drawings respond to much more than the items of clothing, varying widely in their approach and media, reflecting on mood, events and materials.
I often return to themes of fabric and clothing as metaphors for the point of interaction between ourselves and the world, the most intimate site for the experience of time. Trees present themselves to me as things to watch, proud entities that change slowly and still reflect the fleeting flickering of light.
Drawing directly from life gives me the immediacy of a particular place and time but I also work from news media as a way of accessing particular historic moments. Each project uses very different approaches and materials, and like rituals, I return to each of them consistently and regularly. I am usually working on several of these all at once over long periods of time.
This blog documents those projects. For a more chronological approach to my practice as an artist see my website at http://www.maryannecoutts.com.au/index.html
“Unlike the Emperor dressed in nothing, time is nothing dressed in clothes”JULIAN BARBOUR
“To keep our focus on drawing, an artist taking a critical stance to media imagery through graphic means is the Australian, Maryanne Coutts (b.1960). In Coutts’ subtly political project, White News/Black News (2014), a series of watercolours, one a day every day, was produced over a year, each one depicting an item of clothing worn by someone in a media image that day. Coutts says that her intention was to reinvest the media content with the intimacy and tactility associated with personal clothing. These curious and sometimes beautiful images of anonymous fabric bodies show the strangeness of something as fluid as fabric captured in the snapshot. Realising the choice of white background for these works was ‘far from neutral’, the 2014 series was followed by another in 2015–16, this time on black ground.
This engagement with the snapshot is typical of Coutts’ work, reproduced from static images culled from the media, an approach whose legacy dates to photorealism of the late 1960s. Contrary to the aims of photorealism, Coutts’ practice is concerned with intervention. She arrests the flow and speed of images, not to celebrate the surface and effect of photography but to rescue the object of the camera’s technological gaze. By selecting an image for the meticulous attention of her brush, and subjecting it to a time-consuming process of re-representation, Coutts makes the viewer aware that what was continuous and seamless transmission, is now a singular moment in a meaningful narrative. In doing so, she requires us to apply faculties of judgement and understanding. This is a further example of drawing intervening in our understanding of time. Coutts takes the speed of exchange that is enabled by internet broadcast, television, digital photography and its file formats and returns them, recalibrated and reinvested with human time.”Pages 153-154 in the chapter Traces of Life: Drawing History and Culture, in Drawing investigations: Graphic Relationships with Science, Culture and Environment. S. Casey & G. Davies. Published by Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN 978 1-7883-1026-0.