Drawing as Babel Fish

The co- authored paper Crossing the Line Drawing as Babel Fish was delivered at the Itinerant Illustrator Conference,  18–19th December 2014 Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore, India.

The paper examines the emergence of illustrative practices among fine artists to achieve a particular mobility, one which enables them to gather, synthesise and communicate information across diverse environments and communities. This idea informs our research project, Walking the Line: Drawing in Other Terrains.

Contemporary drawing includes artists seeking out ever more responsive and dialogical applications of drawing in interdisciplinary environments. This reveals a fluidity, a new sensitivity where drawing is used to analyse, depict, communicate and reflect upon aspects of lived experience, and work alongside other research professionals.

We discuss the lineage these highly contemporary practices to John Ruskin’s Elements of Drawing (1857) and his belief in the use of drawing to interrogate the world and our position in it. Situated in this context, Ruskin reminds us of our social and ecological responsibilities and provides us with the tools (observational drawing) to address these issues.

We argue this under-acknowledged mode of practice is timely and significant for a globalised interdisciplinary research community because it reveals drawing’s capacity to intercede and build relationships across disparate areas of expertise and communities.