Rossetti 1, 2 and 3. 2013
I visited the Print room at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to spent time observing and drawing directly from Self Portrait (1861) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. On returning to my initial museum sketch I magnified my drawn record to look more closely at the traces made in-situ. Graphite was used in retracing my initial in-situ observation study of the Rossetti Self Portrait (Rossetti Encounter 1). New layers of drawing activity were repeated over the first. The repeated layers of drawing aim to record each time a small area of the in-situ observation drawing has been observed, building up a dense overview of my observation activity. Rather than approach the Rossetti drawing as part of a body of work by an artist or movement I aim to make connections with the work as a record of an event, looking for meaningful connections between the physical traces left by the artist and my own activity.
Silver ink was used for Rossetti Encounter 2 and Rossetti Encounter 3 to record the initial detailed observation. Using graphite, new layers of drawing activity were repeated over the first layer of silver marks. The repeated layers of drawing aim to record each time a small area of the in-situ observation drawing has been observed, building up a dense overview of my observation activity.
A glass magnifying lens rests on the horizontal paper surface of Rossetti Encounter 1, 2 and 3. This refers to visual focus and aims to encourage the viewer to engage more closely with the work, repeating my own engagement with the original drawing.
Investigating the Rossetti self portrait reflects a range of ideas such as semiotics, gaze theory, craftsmanship, and memory as staring points. The philosopher Derrida writes specifically about memory and the impossibility of drawing a portrait of the subject who changes even as it the portrait is being drawn.
Silver ink appears and disappears from the paper surface – its fugitive quality reflects theories of vision and memory. Layers of silver and graphite marks refer to the idea of a palimpsest of memories laid one on another. Small drawn marks are concerned with research suggesting that human visual focus is approximately the size of a thumbnail. Areas of focus have been explored further using glass magnifying lenses ranging in size from 5cm to 25cm made specifically for the Rossetti Encounter series. White Kozo paper is used to support Rossetti Encounter 2 and Rossetti Encounter 3. Kozo paper is used widely in museum conservation of paper artefacts.
My encounter with the Rossetti self portrait at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was the catalyst for a forthcoming publication: Ali. C. (2013) Trace [online] in TRACEY Drawing and Visualisation Research Journal – drawing in-situ
Derrida, J. (1993) Memoirs of the Blind The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Chicago, London. The University of Chicago Press