Saturday, January 24, 2009

Temporality and Drawing: Alexa Brooks

About the Artist
A longtime resident of Baltimore, Alexa Brooks received a BA from Salve Regina University in Newport, RI and an MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She explores detailed realism through graphite drawings and is also a graphic designer and college art instructor.

Sketch Pages sifts slowly through Alexa's detailed shadows:

How does the act of drawing a subject help you experience the everyday more fully than taking a photo or video?
It’s a way of being present. Today’s world moves so fast and we are constantly connected to technology by phone, computer, or television. It’s not very often that we look around us and notice the details of our surroundings, how the shifting sunlight hits an object, how getting a little closer reveals something new. Photography and video can never capture the full reality of a true experience, the temperature, the sounds, the energy. Drawing is a meditative vehicle for me to escape technology and enjoy what’s tangible.

By creating representational drawings with a high degree of detail, what are you trying to claim from time that making an image technologically cannot?
I’m trying to take advantage of time’s offer. As the time passes I develop a relationship with the subject matter that is personal and influenced by my surroundings. One of my favorite drawings is of a white painted brick wall. I spent many hours staring at that wall and looking at every bump and crevice. I was fascinated with it. I hope that the relationship I had with the bricks is absorbed into the drawing itself and is manifested in what I chose to focus on, what to edit out, how much tonal contrast I used, and so on. That’s completely different from the objectivity and immediacy of technology. (Bricks, 2005, graphite on paper, 28” x 22”)

The gesture is very prevalent in your drawings of everyday subjects, like the bed and the curtains. It seems you are capturing moments in time when you make a drawing. What role does nonpermanance play in your work?

For good or for bad things are always changing. In some of my drawings I’m recording a long, drawn out moment. There’s some risk that that moment will be interrupted, so sometimes my meditative drawing practice can become very tense. It’s worth it to me, however, because although I could easily take a photo, a drawing seems like a better tribute to something that attracts me. One example is Piso 4 which was my friend’s apartment in Madrid. She no longer lives there and it’s too bad because I really liked it. When I was there I always had the feeling that I couldn’t be sure what year it was because of its timelessness. I was really worried the neighbors would be upset with me staring at their doors every afternoon, so I drew very furtively. Ultimately, my visit ended and thus the drawing was finished. (Piso 4, 2008, graphite on paper, 11.25” x 15”)

Can you discuss the relationship of time with your drawing? How does it function as a tool to assist you in conveying your ideas?

I know that for any drawing to be any good whatsoever, I have to be willing to put the time into it. Realism is demanding and I have to be committed. Mediocrity bothers me much more than tedium and for the pieces I’m most happy with I drew with the idea in mind that I would work on the drawing forever. But then, for one reason or another, the drawing was finished due to personal satisfaction, loss of the subject to work from, or something else unavoidable. Even if I’m not sure that I’m going to like the results, I try not to abandon a drawing before I’ve finished it. Among many other attributes, I admire the work ethic of the Spanish artist Antonio López García who takes years to finish a piece. Compared to him, I’m not tenacious at all.

In regards to your work’s relationship to technology, some of your images are cropped, like snapshots. Others are presented centrally. Without reference to their surroundings, they lose their original context and almost become icons. Can you expand upon this?

There’s no denying that I’m influenced by photography and another of my favorite artists is the digital painter Jeremy Blake whose videos I find mesmerizing. I’m also a graphic designer so I’m sure some of that sensibility enters into my fine art. When I place the subject centrally on the page it’s to recognize its symbol or address its metaphor when it’s out of context, such as the Gate. A gate is useful for division or enclosure, but without something to attach to its sides or any sort of space before or after it’s just a relic or refuse. Other pieces, such as Wood, are cropped so much that what they actually are is lost and the subject is only shown for its material and texture. It forces the viewer to let go of the larger picture and to notice the details, yet retains some mystery. Right there is the contrast with the technological world that shows us everything we want to know and more via Google, Facebook, and zoom features on photos. (Gate, 2005, graphite on paper, 30” x 44” / Wood, 2005, graphite on paper, 8.5” x 8.5”)

What leads you from one work to another? Any words on what you are working on now?
I’ve been obsessed with birdcages for a while. I’m going to draw a beautiful vintage birdcage my brother gave to me. A real bird used to live inside and it’s pretty beaten up. I’ll draw it life size and it will probably be reminiscent of the Gate more than the other birdcage drawing I did, the Jaula. (Jaula, 2008, graphite on paper, 13.5” x 17”)


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