some things think.
“To paraphrase Berger writing on life drawing in 1960: it is a platitude that what’s important is the process of looking. A line drawn is important not for what it records so much as what it leads you on to see” (Taussig, 2011).
With a greater sense of what you are looking for you become better at seeing, more versed in this new language, you recognise someone speaking to you. The three of us that make up Nous Vous have spent much of the last 10 years looking together, sometimes at similar things, sometimes at different things. Speaking is part of this too.
Throughout this time we have developed a shared visual and verbal language. The importance of such conversation about pictures and how to talk about pictures was highlighted during our period as Illustrators-in-Residence at House of Illustration. In trying to explore the act of collaboration we ended up making a machine that required our three hands to simultaneously operate one pen. The wall-mounted machine functions like a printer, with our three brains as it’s computer. To draw adequately with the machine required us in turn to talk, often at great length, describing to each other the image that we saw in our heads. Let’s draw a shoe. What kind of shoe? A brogue. Which way is it facing? Is that the heel? That’s the front. Should there be a heel? Yes, but how high?
This form of collaboration is obviously different to a team of interdisciplinary practitioners working together to forge new ground. This is three people with very similar skill sets mainly re-covering very old ground. But in talking about an idea, an image, one must formalise what is faint and formless and this act of speaking makes the abstract concrete.
Illustration is often seen as a popular art form, where the aim – by both artist and commissioner – is to say everything to the most people. This should be questioned as the most appropriate response to an increasingly homogenised world. Could it not now be more interesting to see illustration as tool to create publics, rather than simply serve them. Audience, and the awareness of one’s audience is a vital component of illustration.
The term illustration is an increasingly problematic one. Whether you define it as a discipline or context, at its best it is an attempt to communicate an idea visually in a form which has its own benefits, in relation to other practices, be they text or image based. It is becoming increasingly salient that illustration take on a critical aspect, so the practice can be used to help us better discuss what, why and how we make images and how illustration, situated within that discussion, can be used to explore wider social and cultural themes.
Whilst this work may not talk about society at large I do hope it may say something about the joy of making, and how making is a legitimate way of spending one’s time, when making with no reason why, other than for pleasure feels like a political act – a rejection of productivity as a goal and economic concerns.
““We are in the midst of reality responding with joy. It is an absolutely satisfying experience but extremely elusive… Works of art have successfully represented our response to reality from the beginning. The artist tries to live in a way that will make greater awareness of the sublimity of reality possible. Reality, the truth about life and the mystery of beauty are all the same… Responding with joy is the path and we should work and eat with joy. The joy counts and nothing else does.” - Agnes Martin
Nous Vous Collective is House of Illustration's 2016 Illustrator in Residence. See the results of six months spent exploring the nature of collaborative work at our South Gallery exhibition. Nous Vous: Three Men in a Boat is open until 11 June 2017. Our residency programme is generously supported by the Barbara and Philip Denny Trust.
Would you like to be our next Illustrator in Residence? Applications are now open.
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