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the parasite of the past

December 1, 2008

In drawing from observation the line one draws is dictated by the sensorial-investigatory response to visual data. Thereby it escapes intentions rooted in previous experiences. Drawing from observation is precisely the process by which previously accumulated data is not applicable to a current subject. The previously accumulated data will prove to be a hindrance in drawing a new head. It will indubitably  be noticed, as a parasite or an intruding virus is. The investigative observation of a given subject while drawing is a sort of translation into lines following directions, i.e. angles. A grid can serve as an example, however simplified, of what actually happens between brain and hand, in transmitting – through the hand – visual data. In such a transmission any previous data will only be a ‘bug,’ a disturbing parasite. The act of drawing from observation must therefore remain free of such parasites. This is why the perceptive investigation of how the forms of one head are constituted will be of no help for another one. Only the sharpness of observation may increase, but so will the danger of interference. In other words, the accumulation of any previously acquired knowledge of a face or a figure has to be left behind at the threshold of the present sitter.

from On Drawing from Observation,
pg 133, On Depiction: Selected Writings on Art
by Avigdor Arikha

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