Deanna Petherbridge

Performativity and Traces of Action

This writing is so dense. Rewarding but more difficult to read than Patricia McCormack. I have to read her book very slowly. I don’t know how she wrote it in such a short period of time. She had a lifetime of notes of course. I listened to Deanna Pethbridge at the Drawing Symposium at QCA in 2015. I wish I had done some research before I saw her opening address.

“All lines …write time.” True. All activity records time but the lines of a drawing attempt to preserve or record that temporal event. A handy way to relive the past in less scientific and technical times.

Petherbridge is also interested in “the emotive state of the artist and conditions of the making.” Hollander would add, the mind of the model.

The explanation of the Walter Sickert drawing was very detailed, almost forensic. This extreme form of critique is a little self serving. Similar examples exist in the literary world where critics find themes and expand on ideas not thought of by the author, often a subjective response from the viewer or reader. See my short exchange with Roman Longginou in the post dated 23.05.2016 in Words.

“The trace of an action that constitutes drawing….have become the orthodoxies of …conceptual and performance art”.

This is a great insight into modern art for me. Yves Klein and “the representation of pure phenomenology…the trace of the immediate”.

Petherbridge’s words explain very well the problems and ways artists can deal with “the intangible”.

After reading this piece I’d like to understand composition more. Its difficult for me to see the phenomenological elements of some classic drawings at first. Sad that these are found in the cartoons but then must be lost when the artists paints the “finished” paintings. Or perhaps other emotions are indicated in these resolved paintings.

The idea of touch is self evident. It seems to me is is often about technique. Perhaps in literary terms its almost onomatopoeic.

“Van Gogh’s noisy pen markings”  I’ve described some New Guinea Wooden masks in the same way. Words and thoughts are difficult but its easy to see the difference between a drawing that has life and a dynamic quality and one that is flat and lifeless.

Pages 103 – 117


Petherbridge, Deanna. The Primacy of Drawing : Histories and Theories of Practice. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.