Using a spirit level, a three-metre horizontal line is drawn across of a sheet of paper pinned to the studio wall, a few inches below its uppermost edge. From this line others will fall: beginning at its far left-hand side, the artist bangs in a nail, and from there hangs a plumb line. As the weight is pulled down and the string inside unreeled, the device coats the string with vine ash. The taut cord is then pulled away from the paper’s surface and released to snap back against the sheet, leaving a powdery vertical line minutely broken by the string’s grain. The nail is pulled from the wall with the hammer’s back end and hit in again a millimetre or two to the right; the plumb line is again lowered, pinched and plucked, and a new impression appears. This process is repeated hundreds of times, sometimes over many months, until the surface of the paper is adequately covered: ‘a pointless activity', the artist remarks.
Morris’s repetitive, intense work on the plumb-line drawings has very recently inspired a new series that aims to capture the unconscious time, rhythm and movement of her working process. These new ‘Motion Capture Drawings’ are made in a studio which has the technical apparatus required to track movement as a graphic trace. Morris wears sensors on her wrists and on the back of her head as she goes about tacking up the plumb-line at the top of a large sheet of paper, snapping the string on the paper to leave the chalk mark and then winding up the string. The beautiful rhythm of the movement is shown in the resulting picture as a complex tangle of white lines on a black ground.
[The series of lithographs 'The Artists Tears Fall Like Rain'] deliberately cuts against the grain of its title. Tears, like the symptoms that beset the hypochondriac, fail to be signs of something and they fail to connect to other symptomatic indications within a cogent system of causality. Symptoms without content, which connect mysteriously but without explication and emptied of affect. But there is a dogged persistence in the task of observing and recording the tears which tend to stop one being able to see clearly at all, and occasionally come with blinding fury. Tears can be light or they can be the proverbial waterworks. The point of collecting the data is not to make those sorts of distinctions so we can’t know. No pathos, then, despite the inclination of the title, just a determination to continue to make work in lamentable times.
Drawings,recordings and diagrams by Susan Morris
Launch of a publication with essays by Ed Krčma, Margaret Iversen and Briony Fer edited by Deirdre O’Dwyer
|Plumb-Line Drawing (detail)||Motion-Capture Drawing (detail)|