Monday, November 14, 2011

Beyond Visual

Brian Dougan

Associate Professor of Architecture at
The American University of Sharjah College of Architecture, Art, and Design

Once upon a time I was a prolific drawer. I drew for many reasons, but I drew mostly because time invested in drawing revealed something about the world that I did not know. Drawing is a dependable tool to decipher enigma. I have not misplaced the curiosity that persuaded me to be prolific. I am still a drawer. Drawing is my way to investigate, to scrutinize, and to simply think about those things of the world and those things not yet born to the world. I rely on drawing instruction when I am in need of information.

Despite conventional wisdom and excessive antidotal discourse, drawing is not a visual phenomenon. Drawing beyond the visual cliché is best understood in its relations to other activities. I will take this opportunity to draw a comparison between making pottery and making drawings. I will unwrap the following three ideas to illustrate the rapport.


"Centering: that act which precedes all others on the potter's wheel. The bringing of the clay into a spinning, un-wobbling pivot, which will then be free to take innumerable shapes as potter and clay press against each other. The firm, tender, sensitive pressure which yields as much as it asserts. It is like a handclasp between two living hands, receiving the greeting at the very moment that they give it..."

from "Centering - In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person" by M.C. Richards


"I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man's life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened
awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience."

from "I and Thou" by Martin Buber


I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen... from "Zen Seeing Zen Drawing" by Frederick Franck 

This world in which we reside is among other things, distracting. Its pace is not conducive to the sort of focus or temporal surrender that is necessary to see. Such an investment, especially among the youth is an exception to the way we usually manage our time. 

Franck loved to quote Zen master Hui Neng, "The meaning of life is to see."


artworks by Brian Dougan

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