We think about drawing foremost as evidence, as soft furrows or rough outlines. Semantically, however, drawing is relational rather than physical. We draw someone aside, or into us. We draw on the past, we draw to a close. We draw a line in the sand. When approached with a dictionary in hand, drawing engages us in a myriad of dimensions, some of which may not be ours at all. What is a line but a way to connect one thing to the next? Like a word, a line is a connecting mark, a fold impressed by that which it touches.
Sharon Louden & Hrag Vartanian’s latest collaborative project, ‘Origins’, draws on years of conversations, exchanges and shared experiences. First iterated at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Studio Residency Program in 2018, the project remains a living thing. It changes in step with their longstanding friendship. For Louden & Vartanian, art is always already inscribed by the personal relation between artist and object; it is a play of distance and of shadows; an attempt to fix, revise and re-live experience while expressing “the desire to retain a connection to someone special.” ‘Origins’ presents the personal as suggestive of “a larger investigation into the notion of origins, whether through the lens of family, childhood, ideology, communication systems, or material culture.”
‘Origins’ is site-specific but this in itself becomes a matter of complexity; are we speaking of locality, of the gallery or the street outside? Are we speaking of the body, fractured and re-imagined as a bright assemblage of aluminium shards, drawings, silver balloons, crystal balls, text, volleyballs or acrylic paint? Or are we looking at time shared and passed; memories and flashes that together create a certain spatiality of their own?
Each day the work changes in composition slightly as it is modified by the artists and the general public. We wade through the silver balloons carefully, taking care not to step – or do we? – on the faux fur sheep skins on the floor with dirty boots. We glimpse ourselves in partial aluminium reflections, awash in the soft glow of disco lights. We pose, take part, we play, and we return the next day dressed to suit. The work lends itself perfectly to Instagram: as background, yes, but more importantly as a document of other, unexpected lives. The audience becomes participant, advocate and owner, taken up in a conversational exchange of their own.
‘Origins’ is like an overheard conversation; instantly immersive, attractive in its strangeness, and powerful in its democratic immediacy that extends beyond specialised knowledge. It recalls, holds dear and advocates for an openness to being affected, suddenly and without reserve.