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.



I read the epilogue of the Rosand book.

An interesting overview.

“While hardly the exclusive prerogative of graphic media, the independence of the mark is essential to the graphic arts, to drawing and to printmaking.”

His insights into cubism an Picasso were well worth reading.

Rosand, David. Drawing Acts : Studies in Graphic Expression and Representation. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


Having it in for organs.

Dynamic writing. True that humans need a body to be, think, act.

Powerful true words regarding de(signi)fiancé being a default pervert category where refusal to announce gender, sexuality or race is seen by society as “an act of protest”. I have a transgender friend who I have known for 30 years. Society finds her very threatening. Her life is difficult.

Reading this makes me want to go back in time and re see all that I have seen to revaluate it.

I don’t agree that all zombies  are without those markers of race gender and class. Surely they are more threatening if they are “people like us”. Im not a zombie expert by any means.

MacCormack, Patricia. Cinesexuality. Queer Interventions. Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008. Pages 102-105.



Elizabeth Hollander

Very interesting essay on the model, “ the model’s sole end is the image she makes of herself”.

Interesting that the female pronoun is used for the model and the male pronoun for the artist.

I agree that the classic idea is that  the model is “something apart” from the artwork but the model is something more than “the audience” although I think that the model could be part of the audience.

A use for Venn diagrams in the above?

The author was herself a model. It was insightful to read about that experience. It complimented the reflections of our classmate who is also a life model. It showed the model’s acknowledgement of the impact their professionalism may have on the artwork and her response to different artistic media. Hollander sees the model as collaborator  in the process and distinguishes drawing and painting. Drawing is more intimate. I loved the quote from Quentin Crisp. I knew he was a life model. I didn’t know that he drew. I found some images on the web. Enjoyable.

I found the reflections of the experience of being a model for a piece of sculpture rang true. The insights into the model’s role in the sculptor’s finished product were more laboured. Whilst the artist may grapple with the relationship between the model and the emerging creation, I don’t think many art lovers think of this.

The reflections on photography were fascinating. The authors thoughts on fashion photography being the only the mode of photography that engages the model’s authoritative presence”, ring true. It is a collaboration. They are both in the employ of the magazine so the power divide is lessened. They are more equal.

“How a model contributes to a work of art is a secret in the sense that it is confined to the process of making in the studio.”

The argument that the invention of the camera allowed artists to create a more subjective vision of the model is very persuasive.

Hollander, Elizabeth. “Subject Matter: Models for Different Media.” Representations, no. 36 (1991): 133-46.


Well there goes that theory re the artist representing him or herself on the work! I contacted Roman Longginou via Tumblr . He says “ask me anything”. So I did.
Last Tuesday at 3:34 PM

I admire your painting Blue Laceration. Does the blue represent you, the artist?
Last Tuesday at 4:50 PM

Hi Jacinta, Thank you so much. Maybe to a degree it might I guess? Who knows? Ha.
Is this spam?Mark as spam


Essential reading:

This is a very interesting historical overview. Drawing by artist’s studio’s was a quest for the ideal “translated ” into the form of the live model. This practice informed teaching. Interesting to read about the intersection of Church and State on the drawing practices.

Milam, Jennifer. ‘Understanding Life Drawings’, in Maloon, Terence, Peter Raissis, and Art Gallery of New South Wales.Michelangelo to Matisse: Drawing the Figure. Sydney: The Art Gallery of N.S.W, 1999. pp 38-49.



A quick read of the introduction of Beyond Pleasure, Freud, Lacan, Bathes by Margaret Iversen

Iversen refers to Kant and his argument that “we call something “beautiful” when faculties, both cognitive and sensory, entertain the form of an object in a pleasurable, harmonious free play. “

Iversen seeks to write about art beyond pleasure. She looks at Freud and his thoughts that responses to art are bound up with the “pleasure principle”.

She tries to define pleasure and ponders if it is an absence of unpleasure. Reading the ins and outs of Freud’s psychoanalytic art theory even in a cursory way left me cold. The ego, narcissism and the transformation of the sexual instinct, all too abstract for me.

Interest renews several paragraphs on when Iversen speaks of her reaction to “a specific dominant conception” of “ a likeness that does not refer back to an original and so cannot be called a copy” a “simulacrum”.

Iversen discusses Lacan’s imaginary ideology and reliance on the “ideal” and the “ego”.

Shorter version: Art looks attractive in the renaissance ideal, and people like that.

Modern art has used semiotic strategies to break up the image and critics have used this to “read “the art. No surprises here. Art reflects society back to itself and allegorical renaissance-like images are not sophisticated enough for modern society where most people are literate and many are aware, even subconsciously of semiotics.

I didn’t understand a lot of the theory of Lacan. I agree with the statement that art’s beauty is empty and may be one step away from horror, but in such an awful world what is wrong with an indulgence.

The rest of the introduction to this book was too dense for my limited time and I stopped reading.

I gained some insights though, and ammunition against ‘Ol Ayn Rand and her followers at The Atlas Society.

Iversen, M. (2007). Beyond Pleasure, Freud, Lacan, Bathes. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.



Its my day off and I’m working on my art subject. Memesis.

I like Claude Heath.

He says…

“When you follow the movements of a football across a flat TV screen you sometimes have the sensation that the ball is going in a certain direction when it turns out to have a different arc altogether and ends up at the feet of a different player than you had first thought. Its true movements are hidden by the flatness of the screen until it arrives at some particular part of the pitch. This same kind of sensation sometimes happens while drawing, when you attempt to compress the sight and touch of a solid object onto various parts of a flat surface”.  – Claude Heath (Centre for Drawing, October 2001)


I drew my chickens using his methods for Introduction to Drawing. It was very liberating. The marks were  different depending what time of the day I drew them. When they were active my drawings were more abstract. When they were quieter, the drawings were pleasingly lifelike in a plump chickeny way. The memesis was fine. I knew they were chickens. I’m worried about how my drawings look. Abstraction is very attractive. Sometimes though it can be unappealing. It seems a lottery as to which type of drawing one ends up with.

Words are like that too. I like the name Jim very much but don’t like Tim at all. They are both plosive beginnings but Jim seems a strong name and Tim seems to me weak and unmanly. Liver is a beautiful word to say but is difficult to like due to its meaning. River is nearly as nice but not quite.

I will try and take a video of myself hanging out the washing and then draw it, Claude Heath style.



I’m exploring the other side…

Why Art Became Ugly June 2010 Stephen Hicks

Stephen Hicks is a professor of philosophy at Rockford College in Illinois. He is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Scholargy Publishing, 2004). This article apppeared in the September 2004 issue ofNavigator magazine, and is based on lectures given at the Foundation for the Advancement of Art’s “Innovation, Substance, Vision” conference in New York (October 2003) and the Rockford College Philosophy Club’s “The Future of Art” panel (April 2004).

This was an interesting read. A polemic, as expected, but the paragraph below, was weird, especially as the article was written after the Global Financial Crisis, caused by the deregulation of the banking system in an aggressive capitalist economy.

“We are brutally aware of the horrible disasters of National Socialism and international Communism, and art has a role in keeping us aware of them. But we would never know from the world of art the equally important fact that those battles were won and brutality was defeated.”


The argument propounded is that Modernism died in the 1970’s due to staleness.

The argument goes that Modernism’s “scepticism and irrationalism” and quest for truth replaced art’s goals of beauty and originality executed by a “skilled master of his craft”. (So only High Art created by men.)

Hicks says that Modernism was about the truth that life was ugly and horrible. (Didn’t Malthus say that in 1798?) He says that, yes, traditional artists

“had believed the world to be ugly and horrible—but they had used the traditional realistic forms of perspective and color to say this. The innovation of the early modernists was to assert that form must match content. Art should not use the traditional realistic forms of perspective and color because those forms presuppose an orderly, integrated, and knowable reality.”


What follows is an interesting summary of modern art evolving so that form and content follow subject matter, reductionism “to eliminate the third dimension, composition, color, perceptual content, and the sense of the art object as something special.”

Malevich’s White on White gets a look in.

Post modernism

Hicks says post modernism reintroduced content but only if it was:

  1. Ironic and self-reverential. (Whoops, sorry Churchie Art Prize). It also
  2. Deconstructed traditional categories eg mix styles to destroy “stylistic integrity”. Hicks says post modernists
  3. Only allow content statements to be made about social reality and not natural or objective reality. ( Not sure if I can follow the author here, I suppose he thinks everything is seen from the personal perspective. He doesn’t like this.)
  4. Lastly post modernism is about ruthless nihilism.

The view from 2016, the hottest year on record, is that Hicks is shooting the messenger. He wants art to stop being negative.

He ends

“The point is not to return to the 1800s or to turn art into the making of pretty postcards. The point is about being a human being who looks at the world afresh. In each generation there are only a few who do that at the highest level. That is always the challenge of art and its highest calling.

The world of postmodern art is a run-down hall of mirrors reflecting tiredly some innovations introduced a century ago. It is time to move on.”



Hicks,S. (15.06.2010) Why Art Became Ugly. The Atlas Society, Retrieved from  http://atlassociety.org/students/students-blog/3671-why-art-became-ugly


I am finally free to post some thoughts about mimesis.

I purchased a framed poster of this painting by Kazimir Malevich from a rundown op shop in Yamba, a sleepy coastal village a few years ago, for only two dollars. I repainted the frame and now the picture hangs in my home.

Robert Hughes introduced me to Malevich, as a pre-teen, in the 1970’s with his book and then television program “The Shock of the New”. I was genuinely shocked indeed, that his painting Black Square could be considered Art. It seemed to be a joke; it appeared to be made without artistic skill, it was not attractive, it did not represent the corporeal world. Hughes claimed it was an intellectual or philosophical statement.

Fast forward 30 years. We are in Paris’ Pompidou Centre with our three children, the youngest of whom was staring intently at Suprematist Composition: White On White, 1918, by Malevich. She was very excited, as she had then and there decided which painting to reproduce in her year 7 art class. The assignment asked the students to reproduce a famous art work and write about it.

All three children thought the painting was a joke, without artistic merit. I mentioned what I remembered about Malevich. They were unconvinced.

( My daughter decided on this Mondrian. She didn’t quite nail the crisp lines.)




I bought this cup from the Gallery Shop after visiting the Warhol Ai WeiWei exhibition in Melbourne recently. It reads “MODERN ART = I COULD DO THAT+ YEAH, BUT YOU DIDNT”

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I see the artistic impulse, as expressed in drawing, to be part of the human condition. To be able to faithfully reproduce a good likeness of the object being drawn is a skill, a “technical proficiency” says Petherbridge,  but as she explains ,

“The belief that to draw an object in the world – take a likeness, as it used to be phrased – is an act of appropriation that goes beyond words in Western art strengthens this materialist understanding of drawing-as-mimetic-skill.” (Petherbridge, 2010, p. 12)

I am grateful to Petherbridge for her clear writing style. It is comforting for someone who lacks this mimetic skill to read about the concept of “the thoughtful hand”, borrowed by Petherbridge from Heidegger. Petherbridge discusses the  distinction between mechanical skills and the thoughtful process of “praxis”  which seems to include an element of empathy.

I read a book called “Empathy and the Novel” by Suzanne Keen, some time ago. Her thesis is that novel reading makes the reader more empathetic and more likely to do good deeds. Novel reading increased among the Western populace around the time of the enlightenment and the surge of secular thought, individualism and the rise of democracy.

Maybe modern art, with its de-emphasis on mimetic skill and the privileging of dysgraphia as a valued means of democratisation of  art making, also relies on altruism and empathy. Petherbridge claims it. I think its more a response to the increased value society places on individualism.

Petherbridge quotes Norma Broude at length (I’m still on page 12), who says that its possible and essential to “identify an artist’s original intention”.

I agree to a point, but it means a huge leap off the plinth of Plato’s ideal beautiful object and ends up at he 2015 Churchie Art Prize, where the curators notes were lengthy and self reverential, overwhelming the art. At least David Walsh’s MONA “art wank” notes are funny.

I purchased a painting from an artist friend some years ago and praised her for its beautiful abstract lines. I found it very attractive. She said in a deadpan voice that she had painted it in response to her father’s death.

IMG_0110 (2)

I could see then how important it was to know this to understand the painting. As Norma Broude says ” …we will never fully comprehend the fragility of  artistic intention…if we deny ourselves this historical starting point: the artist’s conception of his or her own unique intention…” (p. 12).

My question is:

Does knowing my friend’s impetus for making the painting, increase my enjoyment of the piece? In my case; no. It makes it a bit creepy. I just liked it look of it, the sweeping gestures and the colours. I like high contrast.

I cant help thinking though that I’m asking the wrong question.

Petherbridge, D. (2010). The Primacy of Drawing: Histories and Theories of Practice. London and New Haven,: Yale University Press.