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Kenneth Helphand // Motion Pictures: Drawing While Moving

Mar 5, 2020 - Mar 27, 2020

511 Building - Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design

PNCA Atrium

CCA&C Exhibitions

511 NW Broadway
Portland, Oregon, 97209   [map]

PNCA is proud to present “Motion Pictures: Drawing While Moving” by Kenneth Helphand.

How do we experience nature at a glance? In the modern world it is most often from a moving vehicle. Film and video capture movement, but my question and interest has been in how to record, describe and also evoke movement through space through drawings. My process parallels the movement itself, because it is done “on site” while the vehicle is in motion; the drawings are done rapidly, and the response is direct and immediate. It is a reminder that our landscape impressions are almost instantaneous, versus to the reflection granted when doing conventional drawings on site.

It is an article of faith that the act of drawing forces you to be stationary and focus your attention. It is also commonly thought, that duration enhances the experience – if not the result – that more time can lead to greater insight. But what of drawing where the artist is in a stationary position but is simultaneously in motion? Like any drawing this is an activity that results in visual representation, an artifact that can be shared with others. On boat, train or plane, it encourages looking out the window, and not to close the shade, read a book or watch a movie. It is a return to the almost magical wonder of moving rapidly through space or flying over the earth.

All of my drawings were done rapidly, in real time forcing quick decisions. It is an aspect of what Edna Duffy in The Speed Handbook calls “speed vision.” There is an affinity with the automatic drawing so lauded by the Surrealists in an attempt to bypass conscious thought. The drawings are field notes that can act in many roles; as survey, record and an interpretive record of the landscape experience. They offer distinct and unique vantage points that offer not only a viewpoint, but also a point of view.

I have recorded train and plane journeys as a continuous panorama, but I have experimented with many approaches. I have encapsulated a journey on a single sheet continuously drawing the patterns and views of the ground, layering one atop another; the page becomes an overlay of after images – the drawing is a self-conscious palimpsest. Trying to capture the fleeting experience and a sense of speed is akin to a visual after image.

On a train and airplane, we look through a window much like Alberti prescribed almost six centuries ago in his treatise De Pictura (On Painting). “First of all, on the surface which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen.”

Kenneth Helphand