Saturday, September 5, 2009

Zachory Mory: Drawing as Process

Sketch Pages gets behind the markmaking of Zachory Mory.
About the Artist
Zach Mory was born in Madison, WI and attended undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. His focus has been on drawing as long as he can remember, beginning with copying his favorite comic book characters as a kid. He currently teaches a life drawing class at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, draws, and lives with his new wife in Wheaton, IL.

Can you talk about how you use systems to create your drawing.
When I am working on a piece, I try to keep all elements involved very, very simple. I usually use one media, such as pencil or markers, and I usually create very simple marks that I can repeat fairly easily. I also have an idea of where I will begin on a piece and where I will end, though this is certainly not the case for all of my drawings. Maybe a better way of describing this is that I have a vague feeling of what the drawing might be when it's finished. So the word system might be a bit deceiving. Basically, when I begin a drawing I have rules about what mark I am going to use, what media will be employed, and what general direction I want the drawing to develop in. Along the way though, I allow for new decisions and paths to be discovered and followed so that the drawing is not a dogmatic, preconceived sort of thing.

You write that your drawings are like a life. Can you talk about their evolution over time.
That last question is a great segue into this one. The system and rules that I create when I begin a drawing allow me to more easily access the work. It provides for me a tangible starting point. Once I feel comfortable with how a drawing functions and is progressing, everything changes. Unlike someone like Sol LeWitt, whose drawings were really predetermined, visual executions of certain rules and ideas, I want my drawings to take on other qualities that could only be discovered through the process of creation. I want them to grow and change just like a life. Sometimes I feel like a parent who has all of these aspirations for my kid only to see him or her follow their own muse. Cheap metaphors aside, my drawings have a tendency to follow a very different course than I originally intend for them. That is not to say I am a passive observer to this. On the contrary, say I'm working on a drawing for a few months and in the middle of the second month I notice something in the composition that I never anticipated and it's really visually exciting to me. I'll let that change become a part of the work and the drawing then becomes something completely different.

Can you reflect more on the significance of marks in your work.
The marks I use usually don't have that much significance initially, but as I work with a mark more and more it does begin to stand for something larger than its initial intent. Growing up I spent a lot of time doodling in my notebook, as a lot of kids do. I never considered it high art or even good art. They were just little drawings and doodles. I don't think that this mentality has ever really left me. I still doodle and remember old marks I used to make. The difference now is that when I make a small mark or doodle I can sense the possibility of what it could be if I pushed it to an obsessive degree. For instance, I've been using a small cube shape in some of my recent work. This cube is basically the same cube I remember drawing in grade school when I learned how to draw things in a box. Except now when I use that shape, it builds up into this complex sort of architectural structure that reminds me of Atari video games and Star Wars. There is nostalgia in the shape for me and a strange sort of beauty in it as well.
Other times the marks exist as a sort of documentation of time. In another series of mine, I make lines very close to one another and as I make more and more lines, it appears that the drawing is rippling like water. By using a simple nondescript line, I'm able to create a means of conveying time onto paper. You can literally see the drawing progress. All in all, the marks I use exist in a sort of micro/macro duality where they work with one another to create a larger whole.

What role does chance play in your drawings. How do they factor into the life of a drawing.
Chance plays a large role in my drawings. Since I strive for my drawings to develop on their own, I'm constantly on the watch for a mistakeor something out of the ordinary to occur that might enliven the piece. I believe that it is easy to get comfortable with a certain way of working. By this I mean knowing exactly how a drawing will begin and end. This seems very dangerous to me because repeating yourself can be very suffocating. And unfortunately with my tightly controlled means of working, it is something I have to be careful for. So I'm constantly watching out for the slight slip of the hand that makes an interesting mark to help my work along. I've found that by simply paying careful attention to my process and not discounting the unintended as unworthy, that my work constantly changes and evolves. I've often found to that mistakes or slipups in one drawing deserve their own exploration and I'll use that in my next drawing.

Despite using very small marks to build your drawings, your works are large scale. Can you talk about the tension between the micro and macro and their implications.
I really want my drawings to grow, so by working small on a larger scale, the drawing has sufficient time to develop many different paths. I revel in the discoveries and comfort that comes from working on one piece for a long, long time (sometimes upward of 800 hours for one drawing). I believe that there is an excitement in seeing a work that has been worked and labored to obsessive degrees. This tension between micro and macro invites contemplation I believe. It begs the viewer to stay with the drawing for a bit. I hate to admit this, but it is difficult nowadays to get people to really stay and look at a work of art for more than thirty seconds, so maybe somewhere deep down I'm trying to overcome that in some way, but this is getting a bit off-track. Going back to the question of micro and macro, I've noticed a trend in my work. I try to create individuals within larger, complexly organized wholes. The individuals in and of themselves are relatively uninteresting, yet within the whole they become something beyond themselves. Within that whole they become important and even crucial. Beyond that, they become a testament to the time spent in creating the larger picture. You can literally see the time spent in the creation of the drawing. By working on a large scale with tiny marks, that dichotomy becomes very apparent.

What role does patience play as you draw?

Patience is just as important as the pencil or the paper in my work. People seem to talk about patience slightly in the negative or as something to strive for that is difficult to achieve. You have to have patience to endure bad things or you have to show patience with difficult people. I like to think about patience as simply a means to a desired end. You can only get from A to B by actually doing the work, so it is merely a given that if I want to fill a page with 10,000 tiny marks that I'll need to show some patience. So it just is, I guess. There are definitely times when I want to hang up a drawing because I'm sick of making a certain mark or because my hand really hurts. The thought of a drawing in its finished state is quite an inspiration for me. It's what keeps me going actually. Well, not completely. Beer and coffee really help me in this regard too.

Can you talk about what you are working on now.
The big drawing that I've been working on is based on a grid. The grid has become important to me lately as a starting point. I've been filling in the different squares of the grid with different values creating a sort of fuzzy, pixilated, abstract composition. Each square is shaded in a different direction which creates a very strange sort of texture. It's an interesting subplot to the larger story. Beyond that I have about twenty other drawings ready to go in my head that only need time before I can get started on them. The beauty and curse of spending a long time on drawings is that I get a lot of ideas for new drawings, but can't start them for a few years later it seems. Oh well.