I decided to transform functional objects into drawing material, using the process of charring, so I made functional wooden objects, bowls, vases and the like, into charcoal, to be used as drawing implements.
I developed this into the idea of the Drawing Table, with the intention of the table being a table to draw on, but also had the ability for it also to be a drawing implement, a table that could be drawn with. I covered the surface of the table with paper and laid a traditional still life as the subject of any possible drawing activity. The still life was also the drawing material to be used. The subject, as the material would betransformed into the object, the drawing. Transformation would occur.
People were invited to interact with the Drawing Table. The intervention was a participatory event, other than encouragement to use the drawing material there were no other instructions. The question I was posing in this piece was about the place of the material, the charcoal in the work. How the physical properties of the material, the ability to crack and fracture and to leave a powdered trace upon the paper integrated with the work.
The piece created an emotional response from the outset, one viewer felt there were resonances with a tragic event; that these were the remains of a fire in a household. Another noted that the piece was dark, which of course
it is as the charcoal is black; however the comment was in the context of emotional foreboding. There was initial trepidation amongst participants who felt that the disruption of the still life was destructive and that there was a moment of hesitation before a grip could be taken of the material, almost a moment of internal resolution for theparticipant to align with the material.
The room smelled of charcoal.
After the opening moments, the structure was disrupted and then play occurred. The charcoal made loud screeching and cracking noises as it was used and this became the back drop to laughter, as the further destruction and construction of the material became as childlike play. Cheeks and noses became daubed with charcoal. As the participants left, hands were covered in charcoal, in effect part of the drawing also left with them.
Participation with the Drawing Table had created narrative, and connected with people in a range of emotional possibilities from fear and distrust to open joy. The smell and the noise created a space that was energetic, forceful and busy. I was captured by the beauty of the charcoal. Some of the still life elements had sheen, a lustrous blackness and a fissured texture which was beguiling.
© Cliff Richards 2016