Categories: ArtElement

Automatic Drawing and Painting

Automatic Drawing (distinguished from drawn expression of mediums) was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious. In automatic drawing, the hand is allowed to move ‘randomly’ across the paper. In applying chance and accident to mark-making, drawing is to a large extent freed of rational control. Hence the drawing produced may be attributed in part to the subconscious and may reveal something of the psyche, which would otherwise be repressed. Examples of automatic drawing were produced by mediums and practitioners of the psychic arts. It was thought by some Spiritualists to be a spirit control that was producing the drawing while physically taking control of the medium’s body.

Automatic drawing was pioneered by André Masson but artists who also practised automatic drawing around the same time include the English artist Austin Osman Spare and in France Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jean Arp and André Breton.

The technique of automatic drawing was transferred to painting (as seen in Miró’s paintings which often started out as automatic drawings), and has been adapted to other media; there have even been automatic “drawings” in computer graphics. Pablo Picasso was also thought to have expressed a type of automatic drawing in his later work, and particularly in his etchings and lithographic suites of the 1960s.

Automatic writing is a mode of writing in which neither consciousness nor will intervene. This process has at least five different fields of application: literature, psychology, painting, parapsychology or autohypnosis.

Automatic writing has been used by the surrealists as a mode of literary creation, making it possible to emancipate themselves from the narrowness of thought governed by reason. This point is characteristic of the surrealist movement. It was at the end of a quest on the nature of poetic inspiration that André Breton formalized this technique applied to literary creation. It consists of writing as quickly as possible, without control of reason, without aesthetic or moral concerns, or without any concern for grammatical consistency or respect for vocabulary. The state necessary for the good realization is a state of letting go, between sleep and waking (close to a hypnotic state).

Most of the surrealists’ automatic drawings were illusionistic, or more precisely, they developed into such drawings when representational forms seemed to suggest themselves. In the 1940s and 1950s the French-Canadian group called Les Automatistes pursued creative work (chiefly painting) based on surrealist principles. They abandoned any trace of representation in their use of automatic drawing. This is perhaps a more pure form of automatic drawing since it can be almost entirely involuntary – to develop a representational form requires the conscious mind to take over the process of drawing, unless it is entirely accidental and thus incidental. These artists, led by Paul-Emile Borduas, sought to proclaim an entity of universal values and ethics proclaimed in their manifesto Refus Global.

As alluded to above, surrealist artists often found that their use of ‘automatic drawing’ was not entirely automatic, rather it involved some form of conscious intervention to make the image or painting visually acceptable or comprehensible, “…Masson admitted that his ‘automatic’ imagery involved a two-fold process of unconscious and conscious activity….”

The first work written with this method was Les Champs Magnétiques by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, published in 1919. It was the starting point of the surrealist movement. One of the first automatic writing presentations is the play Please.

The invention of the “exquisite corpse” by the surrealists is in the same vein of a literary creation liberated from the shackles of reason.

Definition of the automatic writing by André Breton in Manifesto of the surrealism (1924): “Place yourself in the most passive or receptive state that you will be able to … write quickly without preconceived subject, fast enough not to hold you back and do not be tempted to reread yourself. ”

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Automatic writing has a fundamental place in surrealism, but it is not reduced to it. Taking stock of surrealist activities in 1933, Breton regretted that this discovery was not better exploited in these terms: “the history of automatic writing in surrealism is that of a continuous misfortune”.

Automatic writing finds a graphic equivalent in the so-called rubbing technique, invented by Max Ernst in 1925: it consists of letting a pencil lead run over a sheet placed on any surface (parquet or other texture), which reveals more or less imaginary figures.

Members of the Korwa Hill tribe in deep India of Chhattisgarh, learned in the villages that respect and power are linked to the ability to write. For the Korwa Hill, writing is not a tool to communicate, but a pure magic that gives power. But Hill Korwa speak a dialect without writing!

This is what Jagdish Swaminathan says in his catalog for the exhibition of Hill Korwa’s works “The Magical Script” of the Bharat Bhavan Museum (Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh) in 1985: “The first thing we see in these drawings is their calligraphic character, as if it were not a drawing but a writing. But the Hill Korwa do not have written documents; they are illiterate […] When one looks at these drawings one immediately thinks of the works of Paul Klee “. They write quickly, very quickly, notes Swaminathan in his catalog. As they walk. The Korwa Hill easily walks 40 km a day, with infernal speed.

Mark Tobey (American painter) painted in England, in November or December 1935, several paintings (“Broadway”, “Welcome Hero”, “Broadway Norm”) in a “white writing” (“White writing”) which will be the essential characteristic of his work and which, according to critics, will have a decisive influence on Jackson Pollock’s itinerary.

On Cy Twombly (American painter, draftsman, sculptor and photographer), Pierre Restany, critic of contemporary art, writes: “His graphic design is poetry, reportage, stealth gesture, sexual release, automatic writing, assertiveness, and refusal as well. … there is neither syntax nor logic, but a shudder of being, a whisper that goes to the bottom of things. ”

Parapsychologists envisage with this technique the intervention of the paranormal as the effect of the psychic dissociation of the subject introduced into a new dimension. Some authors claim to be able to write by connecting to the Akashic records.

Hypnotists accurately detail the same phenomenon that is induced by self hypnosis.

Automatic writing or the flow of consciousness is the process or result of writing that does not come from the conscious thoughts of the writer. It is a way to make the subconscious surface. It consists of placing the pencil on paper and start writing, letting thoughts flow without any moral, social or any kind of coercion. Sometimes it is done in a trance state, although it is not necessary to do so.

Its purpose is to overcome the censorship that is exerted on the unconscious, thanks to unscheduled creative acts and without immediate sense for consciousness, which escape the will of the author. Then it directly composes the unconscious, freed from censorship.