Drawing as Thinking in Action
) ( ) DRAWING AS THINKING IN ACTION
Nikolaus Gansterer’s wide-ranging oeuvre and artistic approach are exemplary for an expanded, open notion of drawing; one that conceives drawing as process; that realises and acknowledges both common and assumed potentials this art form holds, as well as potentials yet to be unveiled by means of experiment and curiosity, and that imagines a variety of forms in which a drawing can become manifest, materialise, and take shape.
Besides drawing, Gansterer’s artistic practice includes sculptural installations, performance, animated film and video works, and long-term research-based work. He understands the processes of thinking and drawing as analogous and is concerned with the fundamental question of how to translate and visualise thought processes, both conscious and subconscious. Thus, he explores how the act of drawing can become a tool of communication, a score, or an instruction for taking action. Searching for a playful way of dealing with the complex levels of speculative knowledge, Gansterer has consequently developed a distinct oeuvre since the early 2000s.
To express and demonstrate the materiality of perception he applies a unique performative grammar, for example in his on-going TransLecture series, in which the artist’s flow of ideas and thoughts manifest as captivating live drawings diagrams and arrangements, while the actions taking place on a lab-like table are filmed and recorded from above.
Like the British artist Avis Newman, who asserts a connection between drawing and thought, stating that the process of drawing operates as a “record of the workings of thought” and “is a site of inquiry, response and invention, and in that sense becomes a philosophical activity”, Gansterer is deeply interested in the translational processes of constructing meaning by means of all senses. He questions how these immanent and situative constructions of meaning could be expanded towards a radical sympoiesis: where a line of thought becomes a line on paper, turns into a line in space or a line verbalized, and then again a line articulated with the whole body or that, as a score for performing with others, transforms into an object.
Nikolaus Gansterer’s exhibition at Drawing Lab Paris introduces a drawing practice that is conceptually complex and that generates highly sensual and aesthetic art works: an artistic approach that regards (the act of) drawing as a choreography that unfolds between thought, surface and the drawing hand. Gansterer deals with drawing as a reflexive practice, one that questions or even mirrors itself. When one follows the artist on this meta level of “drawing the drawing”, or “showing the showing”, or when one simply enjoys getting lost in the details of a work, in the end one is rewarded by being let into a fascinating world of thoughts and structures that materialise in unexpected ways, and that spans between science and fiction.
As the exhibition title ) ( ) DRAWING AS THINKING IN ACTION suggests, the idea is to cast a fresh light on drawing — as a tool for expressing or translating thinking into a corporeal action — by presenting elements and exploring aspects of this practice such as ad hoc notations, records of self-reporting, or the embodiment of drawings in space-body diagrams. Just like thought processes temporarily assume form, materialise and again become the starting points for new lines of thought, the concurrent presence of new and existing works creates an autonomous cosmos in which they refer to one another over and over.
In the main exhibition space at Drawing Lab Paris, a new body of work conceived specifically for this context and realised on site forms a kind of open, permeable system, while the adjacent rooms are turned into a ‘work lab’, a condensed archive whose pink walls are cluttered with a variety of works and materials, and a screening room that offers insight into Gansterer’s video work and performative drawing practice. How the works are placed and paced in the exhibition, how they correspond with each other, how the display creates fields of density and emptiness, of intensified materiality vs. the weightlessness of a projector’s beam as sole means to present a work — this all picks up on the manifold directions Nikolaus Gansterer’s explorations take and the varied manifestations his work find: like when a line of thought literally explodes, blows your mind, dissolves, becomes thick, then again hovers, remains in a state of suspension; you let loose, and the concrete idea transforms into a bodymind sensation, turns into a sensual awareness. (...)
Five key new works are generously placed within the main room. They span a range of Gansterer’s favoured formal artistic manifestations, materials and methods, notably intuitive notations, wall drawings, and a mobile. The focus oscillates between introspection and a heightened awareness for the respective environment and context, and is expressed
by means of a specific method of automatic drawing (explicated below) that is loosely related to the Surrealist technique but has been refined and expanded to fit the artist’s needs, and systemic configurations alike. While installing his exhibition, for instance, the artist meticulously protocolled all sorts of actions, thoughts, and processes by jotting them onto the white wall, applying his method of Self-reporting. Once the process of installing was completed, however, he erased the entries, leaving only fragments of this record and a heap of rubber shavings.
Dark grey walls at the end of the room serve as carrier for a wall drawing and as backdrop for a large mobile. The figure-ground relationship is cleverly played out here. Both individual works interact with each other: lines on the wall unexpectedly find a continuation into the third dimension, patterns are repeated or disrupted, a spatial figure of thought meets its match, points to its counterpart, or takes a new direction in the structure of the plane drawing on the wall. Seen together, the sum of these intertwined works is more than their individual parts; the shifting appearance subtly but persistently challenges the viewers’ perception, actuates and activates them. With the mobile, a three-dimensional figure of thought whose fluctuating nature so perfectly corresponds to the incessant unconscious flow of thoughts, the parallel, intersecting, curved and straight lines, points, nodes and dots of the wall drawing behind assume shape and materialise as a seemingly chaotic, energized tangle of delicate rods, some more elastic than others, some straight and directing, some wrapped with tape to create dashed lines held together with string knots and cable ties. A flexible coordinate system emerges from this interplay, it symbolises the autonomous cosmos that is generated by the works on show and reveals a field of associative, hypothetical assumptions.
An arrangement of smaller and larger circular canvasses and objects are placed on the floor, like concentric waves on the surface of water: a lake, a puddle, or the sea. The drawings show the artist’s attempt of mapping the intangible and unutterable: atmospheresand ambiences he searched for in order to explore the genius loci of a situation in all its complexity — the accumulation of interrelated and often ephemeral phenomena and processes that constitute the specific atmosphere of a place — using all his senses, conscious and unconscious. Challenging the shortcoming of grasping synchronicity and simultaneity of both subtle and powerful occurrences, of what one can’t see, of what one has no words for, but what one can definitely feel on a body-mind level, if prepared to empty and free oneself to engage (and be rewarded or puzzled) with what one encounters and experiences. These works are part of Gansterer’s new long-term research project, Contingent Agencies. While the focus in the piece placed on the floor (ironically “grounded”) is to achieve a state of suspension by means of meditative emptying in order to open up to new sensations, the ‘work lab’ in turn is a place full of affluence and multiplicity, and intimacy at the same time. Like on a Warburgian pin board, or a huge pink post-it, a variety of diagrams, drawings, photographs, source and research materials allow for an insight into the artist’s interests and working process: here, drawing is thinking in action. (Jeanette Pacher)
) ( ) DRAWING AS THINKING IN ACTION, Nikolaus Gansterer, solo show at Drawing Lab Paris, France, 21 March - 15 June 2019, Curated by Jeanette Pacher
- Rendre visible la pensée, Klaus Speidel, in: Art Newspaper, Drawing Now, Nr.6, March 2019
- Quand le dessin passe à l'acte, Alison Moss, in: Le Quotidien de l'Art, 26.03.2019
- Nikolaus Gansterer, ) ( ) Drawing as Thinking in Action, Aurélie Cavanna, artpress 465, April 2019.
- Le tournant performatif, Camille Paulhan, artpress 465, April 2019.
- Drawing Now, L’estampille l’objet d’art, Magazine d’art, OJD: 30 725, 03/ 2019.
- Drawing Now, Art Fair, PARIS CAPITALE / Mars 2019.
- Revue d’art, ARTAÏSSIME, January-March 2019.
- ARTS IN THE CITY, Art Magazine, May 2019
- Exposition: Nikolaus Gansterer au Drawing Lab, Paris, Le Mag Sorties, Reportage dans l’exposition, Eva Ben Saadi, VIA GRAND PARIS, 27.03.2019, Thiiviaoccitanie.tv, 27 March 2019. (clip from 02:32 min on)
“Nikolaus Gansterer, ) ( ) Drawing as Thinking in Action“, Cat. Exhib., Drawing Lab, Paris, 2019.46 p., full colour, English/French, with texts by Jeanette Pacher and Christine Phall.