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An email conversation that took place during the making of NO HORIZON between Joanna Jones Helen Lindon and Clare Smith


HL. Thanks for the paper,* which I have finally managed to find time to read and study.

As we know, drawing and all fine art at its best, is a concatenation of experience, emotion and time. However, I am always suspicious of the use of French philosophy to 'inform' in a visual art context...words are not the same as drawing, they are different languages and I feel that art need other critical 'readings', maybe a transfer directly from the artist to the viewer without mediation through written language.  These theories all too often seem to be 'attached' to Fine Art to give it gravitas, when in fact the meaning is embodied in the work itself and words diminish rather than enhance our experience. 


CS. I always find the academic can enrich and widen the discourse and place it in context, not at the expense of the artist though. For me words just do something different, again not necessarily to the detriment of the non-verbal. We use them to communicate or clumsily try to communicate what you call raw feelings. I don’t think words necessarily get in the way of a non-verbal understanding but agree they can.

I see theory as a useful tool for reflection - we don’t just see or feel visual work, we think about it too so need words to help with the thinking. So I think the standard theory vs. practice dialectic needs to be challenged. 


HL. Most of this critical theory was taken wholesale from critical literary theory to enable university degrees to be awarded for fine art as art schools stopped awarding diplomas and were made into universities, which in my view was a grave mistake.

I think I may have become allergic to ‘artspeak’ and always find myself searching for the authentic voice of the artist.


CS. The bit I find interesting was the section on collaboration while working on individual approaches. Working in the same space and/or sharing the same space and thinking about what happens. While what we were doing was quite different, the thoughts in this section relate to some of the things we were saying, which I find links us to a community of thought.


JJ. Although my mind finds it difficult to express in words my thoughts on what I find underlies this conversation, I am going to give it a try as I do feel part of it and would like to join. But here begins the problem for me; in our embodied Experience/conversation when we are working together the communication is happening on so many levels simultaneously. 

Although I rate Merleau Ponty really highly, trying to describe multi layer Experience in a linear verbal way just becomes too complicated and moves me so far away from the embodied Experience it is trying to open up. 

Community of thought is now accepted in science and personally I don’t think we own our thoughts but rather catch them as many others are doing simultaneously. That is why what we do and think, not always consciously is so important and powerful. Not because it is ours but because we can host or embody it. I realise that bringing the unconscious into the conscious as in academia is valuable. The danger of academia, as I see it, is that it exists at a remove, and for some people instead of, the lived experience. 


CS. This is such a good conversation - through the work we are doing, we are actually critiquing academic efforts to talk about what we are doing. So our drawings/paintings question the critical writing and its effectiveness and find places words can't get to. The convoluted writing shows how hard it is to use words and our conversations are another way of grappling with what the nature of experience is and how to think about it whether verbally or non-verbally. 


*THE SENSE OF DRAWING: AN APPROACH TO DRAWING, MARKING AND EXPERIENCING TIME Carali McCall, Jane Grisewood UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS LONDON Joint presentation at the 6th UNIDCOM/IADE international conference 2011 on 6 October, Antigo Tribunal, Lisbon, Portugal 

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