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Drawing windows since 1988. British visual artist based in Copenhagen traveling globally.

Writing ⛵️

Notes from Talk on Virtual Reality @AgendaFestival 2016

Daniel van der Noon

REDEFINING THE ARTISTIC MEDIUM: DRAWING IN VIRTUAL REALITY VS. DRAWING IN REALITY 

On paper, anything can be imagined possible; cats can fly, buildings can be erected on the surface of Mars, and a future can be imagined that parallels your own dreams. The more you draw, the more you see. Galaxies of stories are born before your eyes, restricted only by the time you invest in their creation.  

The driving force behind drawing, as a medium, is the determination to seek out new means of image making and to invent new processes. Drawing is not in stasis, it is founded on change, this is an intrinsic quality – as may be said of all mediums of expression. There is no fixed definition of what consists in a drawing. Drawings or marks of the hand are simply a part of the human condition. From Cave drawings to David Hockneys ipad drawings, drawing features as a part of the general picture of being human to express or externalise what is internal out of our body. We draw with our fingers, thumbs, pens, pencils, sticks, rocks, digital styluses; into the air, on to paper, canvas, sand, concrete and carpet.

The shape and form of our drawings are due to 3 fundamental variables;

1. The technology available to the drawer during the age of its production,

2. The culture and / or environment in which the drawing is made

3. The art historical narrative (or lack of) consciously or subconsciously known to the drawer.   

Through a combination of persistently travelling, collaborating and exploring – both of your physical self and the self, visible through the marks that you make – you will arrive at the creation of new, original drawings and lines. It is through engaging in the development of processes that youre able to move forward: moving forward being defined by the creation of something new. This arises from your own admission to enter new territory far away from your influences. That means drawing not like anyone you know, with materials that you are unfamiliar with, and perhaps even in an environment that you are also unfamiliar.

Mirroring the self, it is a natural phenomenon that some methodologies –in my case using ink liners to create improvised metropolises – offer advantages to the drawer beyond the drawing itself. By-products if you like. That is to say, while it may be perceived as an impressive feat to create a hyper-detailed drawing of a city, the value is in the psychological space that becomes available to the drawer during its production. That is the real gift. It opens up portals inwards. Ideas flourish. In the act of drawing a metropolis one thousand other stories, ideas and visions occur in the mind of the drawer that then naturally lead you to delve deeper in the development of your medium. Like a real city, the mind becomes curious as to what lies behind each window, and inquire what culture of people walk the streets; how they party, how they work, how they love. What is happening in the present moment of their coming into existence by way of ink. Through excavating your dreams and arriving at a method of drawing that seamlessly captures what you are thinking in the instant that you think it, you find new access points of creativity. The mind wanders beyond the paper, beyond the drawing itself. For every line made on to the paper itself means a line applied internally. Lines are keys. The mind-state and the method go hand in hand; it can be recalled at any given time. Like magic. 

Immersing the self in the activity of drawing you are presented with channels, depending upon the method of medium that you choose to create your lines and movements. Analogous to flickering through a satellite television in a foreign country, some of the channels may be familiar – such as the above example - but others are otherworldly, communicated in alien aesthetics and often in a language you have little or no knowledge about. You are intrigued nevertheless. Curious.

IN COMES VR

The ecstatic drawer must go beyond paper.

Eliza McNitt The Hubble Cantata

Eliza McNitt The Hubble Cantata

To return to the TV analogy above, just like arriving randomly on channel 403 in a New York hotel room where you see a live game of Poker – a game that, for sake of argument, you know nothing about - while in the beginning you are mystified as to what on earth is happening, with a little engagement you may find value in the show. The lingo used by the commentators, why muffled exchanges between the players are humorous to the live crowd, and why, for that matter, there is even a live crowd witnessing the game at all is all completely alien to you – but you begin to piece information together. You learn about the game and all of the elements that make it entertaining. Using your mind, you study the rules by way of inference, making general comparisons to other such game shows that you have previous knowledge of. You create a pathway towards understanding. You invent a process. You may even end up liking what you see and even start following Gus Hansens Twitter.

The same thing happens when you enter VR. Your mind jumps to make connections, assumptions, correlations. The common thing to do is stick to what you know. To draw with a material that you feel well acquainted with in a way similar to what you would do out here in reality: watercolour, ink, graphite, charcoal. To draw in a way that you feel comfortable. To import a method from out here in reality and take it inside VR. To not flicker around TV stations. To not discover new available process.

Know that whatever you create inside VR will become a part of the domain of VR. Just as when you write with a pen and type on an Apple Mac. The medium is the message. What you write with a pen is different both in character and content to that which you produce through type. You have to fuck with the machine to realise your method.

We enter VR with the knowledge, first of all that it is a TILT BRUSH. We are told it is a brush, but the experience however is closer to that of a God, a governor of all axes, X Y and Z who can create fire, light or any colour in strands that come out of the hand like a Marvel superhero/ine. Though drawing, painting or whatever we would call it at this stage is primitive, we nevertheless identify that there are possibilities in this new medium not yet explored. This is why it is exciting. Artists greeted camera obscura with the same aura. Early photographers also. Even Flemish painters in the 17th C when they got their hands on the elusive ultramarine pigment. New media create wild hysteria among users. The medium is new. The way that paint or matter is applied into space is not, in principle, comparable to real painting, spray painting or drawing . Perhaps its closest ally is Picassos light paintings. 

Friedrich Nietzsche famously experimented with the Hansen Writing Ball, citing in 1882 that "Our writing instruments contribute to our thoughts"

Friedrich Nietzsche famously experimented with the Hansen Writing Ball, citing in 1882 that "Our writing instruments contribute to our thoughts"

Pablo Picasso; an avid drawer and inventor of processes.

Pablo Picasso; an avid drawer and inventor of processes.

There are new territories now awaiting to be cracked open that will have an effect on the world and its means of expression equal to or greater than what preceded. We've watched the world undergo paradigm shifts of a similar weight umpteen times. The rise of Apple, for instance. 

The brain is quick to register the experience of the Tilt Brush and, for all intense and purposes, it is real. The lines that you make are applied where you wanted them in the colour and style that you also wanted them. However it is vitally important that the way we create inside these programmes begins with play. Here is a new medium, and a new aesthetic will therefore follow. Things will never look the same again. Things should never look the same again. Since when have things ever looked the same as before. 

Time Magazine cover, August 2016

Time Magazine cover, August 2016

Image of Warhol in 1984 experimenting with the Amiga 1000s image making software in a famous televised portrait session with Debbie Harry aka Blondie.

Image of Warhol in 1984 experimenting with the Amiga 1000s image making software in a famous televised portrait session with Debbie Harry aka Blondie.

In other words, myself going in there and recreating a city inside the HTC device is uninteresting. The ink pen and the city are interlinked; they are inseparable. VR is a new arm. I must discover what I am capable of doing in there; and to do so entails all the stages involved in inventing a new process.

Humans are very sheepish remember. We like to pattern our behaviour collectively, model ourselves on others. And when it comes to ‘creativity the mind comforts the self with the idea that you will arrive at a foreseeable result. Going to a traditional croquis class, you would expect to walk away with lines reminiscent, or at least directly triggered by the model before your eyes in line with the tradition of croquis. Drawing in VR later today, some part of my brain anticipates a result, especially after I Google it.

This is not wrong, but it certainly is not pressing our potential.

Reinventing charcoal, or developing new processes in doing so requires that you regress your mind to a time before you knew both what charcoal was, how it appears when used as a drawing material, and indeed the concept of Croquis. Perhaps the fact that VRs virginity is what makes it so exciting, the medium is yet to be explored. There are no experts inside there. The aesthetic is not yet fixed, a standard is still establishing itself. Better still, those who can draw on paper or paint on canvas are NOT NECESSARILY those who can TILT Brush.

Demo @ Agenda Festival 2016. photograph / Shali Hansen

Demo @ Agenda Festival 2016. photograph / Shali Hansen

It is the duty of the drawer to invent new channels. You have the option to discover far-flung new channels, as well as experiencing those you already know about.

To investigate what happens when your hand is engaged differently and question the outcome of what would happen if you draw with an ancient rock from Pretoria? Or attempt to draw with cake decorating equipment and oil paint on to a garment? Or even develop a means of communicating through using adhesive tape? Your definition of drawing becomes blurred, and it should. Drawing with a pencil is only as old as its tradition. Is there such a thing as drawing with adhesive tape? Does it matter what such a method would be termed if youve committed yourself to creating a drawing using this material? To marry yourself to a definitive theory of drawing is to stunt your growth, cap your curiosity, and prefigure the future of your lines by internally agreeing to a fixed definition. 

Push it, learn and let go.

Matthew Barney's 'Drawing Restraint' work series / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Matthew Barney's 'Drawing Restraint' work series / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art