There are lots of drawings that fit neatly under Klee’s description of ‘taking a line for a walk’ but few that do it quite as literally as Ceal Floyer’s Taking a Line for a Walk, in which a line painting machine of the sort normally used to mark out tennis courts and the like is walked through the gallery space leaving a trace that takes the audience on a journey through the space.
I’ve written about Francis Alÿs going for a walk here before (that time in the form of his Pradox of Praxisfor which he pushed a block of ice around the streets of Mexico City until all he had to show for his efforts was a rapidly drying water mark of the pavement) but this week, given the awful news from Gaza, it’s his 2004 work The Green Line: Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic that’s worked it’s way back into my mind.
I can’t pretend to have anything more than the most rudimentary understanding of the politics of the middle east but this is a work that at least helps with some basics by taking us back to the division of Jerusalem after the end of the Arab-Isreali war in 1948: the green line drawn on a map of the city by Moshe Dyan.
I would say I promise to stop writing about Ceal Floyer’s work soon, but, well, there’s at least one more post forming itself in my head so who knows really. She provides just the right mix of ideas, empty white space (usually, but of course now another post, about work that isn’t empty or white is starting to form) and playfulness to make sure I’m fully engaged. In consisting largely of rawlplugs, Do Not Remove reminds me quite a lot of (some of) Susan Collis’s work which I’ve also written about here ad nauseam. Plus, there’s a sign and I rather like signs (indeed I find myself slight surprised to find that I haven’t tagged loads of posts as ‘signs’ but I suspect that’s down to shoddy tagging rather than a lack of posts about signs).
What made me start thinking about Ceal Floyer’s work was the idea of emptiness and of the work making the whiteness of the space. And in that respect the work that came to mind was from an exhibition I saw at the Lisson Gallery rather longer ago that I first thought. It seems on the whole improbable that it’s three and a half years since I saw Facsimile – though the evidence is unambiguous – given that it remains very clear in my head. The projection – almost completely white – fills the wall. It takes a while to get the significance the slight trace of movement that constitutes the image: the video is of a fax machine; the paper being passed through it seemingly blank. If the fax is sending rather than receiving a message, there could of course be all manner of important information on the other side of the page but there is no visible trace so it reads as a transmission of emptiness. In the days when fax machines were commonplace – and I don’t know about you but it must be years since I’d sent a fax even in 2010 when Floyer made the work – it seems entirely possible that I regularly got confused about which way up to put the paper and send page after page of nothingness to confused (non) recipients but the deliberate whiteness of Floyer’s Facsimile is intriguing. I find myself enjoying the emptiness rather than wondering what message I might be missing.
Ceal Floyer, Monochrome Till Receipt (White), 1999 (2009 version, Tate)
This wasn’t what I expected to write about next. In fact, when I thought about writing about Ceal Floyer’s work it wasn’t this work that had popped into my head but, once it had, it wouldn’t make way for anything else. Regular readers will know that I do tend to like work that’s white to the point of almost vanishing into the wall and that I find the strategy of showing a tiny work on a big empty wall appealing. It must also be fairly apparent to anyone that’s read more than a few posts here that I do like work that makes me smile. When these two things coincide, so much the better.
Drawing on a big scale – and some of Sol LeWitt’s larger wall drawings are on a very big scale, more installation than drawing really – can be quite an undertaking. Even if LeWitt had made most of his work himself he could have been forgiven for bringing in a team of assistants to help out. Given his strategy of generating instructions for others to follow though the process of drawing is, by definition, the domain of hired hands.
Thinking about the blurring of the boundary between sculpture and drawing brings Sol LeWitt to mind; add a fascination with geometry into the mix and I find myself looking afresh at LeWitt’s Open Geometric Structures in particular. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the structures – a term LeWitt favoured over sculptures – with the openness lending them a feeling of being drawings in space rather than, or as well as, being objects.