One of the most common misconceptions about art making is that for artists it is ‘easy’ or comes naturally. Many practitioners will in fact attest that nothing could be further from the truth, and certainly, during my short-lived career as a painter, the art making process was less impassioned frenzy and more blood from stone.
I recently made a studio visit with Robbie Karmel, a multi-talented artist whose practice is largely based upon this very chasm between the desire to make art and the ultimate realisation of it. Karmel freely admits to finding art making difficult, and in order to find a means to that end he formulates and implements detailed rules, complex processes and strict routines. That’s not to say he is trying to simplify art – in fact he is often searching for the hardest way of doing things, shifting himself out of his comfort zone, working in unfamiliar territories. Karmel is interested in what he refers to as ‘brain overload’ – developing methodical approaches to art that circumvent emotional response, instead engaging parts of the brain largely under-utilised in creative activity, triggering highly focussed, meditative states.
This makes for some incredible new work, and recently Karmel has been punching out an ever-expanding series of drawings that exist in this very divide between concept and reality. His subjects are for the most part banal objects, selected because they hold little association and represent as little meaning as possible. These objects are then ‘perceived’ less than they are seen by the eye. One example is Karmel drawing his feet as they rest in a bucket hidden from view, solely by the way they feel in the bucket. Alternatively, he might draw the inside of an object, negating its exterior, or draw with both hands simultaneously.
By actively disconnecting his highly trained artistic brain Karmel is able to produce more highly connected work. Even without knowing the complex processes of their creation these drawing are strangely magnetic, seeming at once logical and completely non-sensicle, unidentifiable as either the mark of the human hand or the systematic wanderings of a computer.
A drawing is not a thing. It is a likeness of a thing that can never be the true likeness. Sometimes it is not that thing at all but the likeness of everything that is between or around the thing. It is everything that is not that thing.
Karmel is hosting an open studio and artwork sale in Canberra this weekend, visit his site for contact details and to see many of the artistic investigations he has been undergoing over the past months.