Drawing Dialogue

‘Drawing makes things appear that weren’t there a moment before’ (Fisher 2009).

Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Japan and spent memorable days in the most wonderful land, with the most generous people. One such day was spent with Masahiro Suda. We looked at his paintings, visited galleries, museums, historic sites and of course dined with family, friends and colleagues. Suda’s deceptively simple paintings and drawings are both globally contemporary, but are replete with references to craft traditions such as the glaze of the ceramicist and the art of the calligrapher. They spoke to me of duration, impermanence, and the primacy of the drawn line. They chimed with my own interests in creative practice that is analogous to meditative states of being and doing through focused mark-making. We looked, talked and shared ideas. We sat in silence together and we spoke of art, education and exchange.


For twenty-years our universities have run a highly successful student exchange programme with students from Nagoya and Brighton spending a semester at each other’s universities. Along with colleagues we discussed the benefits of the exchange programme and asked how we can celebrate, continue, and develop the partnership. We explored the idea of exchange as something of value to our institutions that potentially can have a positive impact on research, collaboration, and pedagogical insights and approaches.

Drawing Dialogues emerged from these discussions. Suda and I began developing and enabling collaborative practice and communication between colleagues who do not share a common spoken language, yet, nevertheless were willing to engage in alternative channels of communicability through the development and discovery of visual mark making. The late, great, writer John Berger said that ‘Drawing is an act of discovery’ and he also spoke of drawing as ‘receiving’ (2005). What is it we discover and receive when we draw? Drawing as dialogue asks this question, with sharing crucially placed into the mix.

The first part of this ongoing project features ten colleagues working in pairs with drawings sent back and forth between Japan and UK, with each artist responding to the drawing received. Receiving drawings from Nagoya was always an event – with colleagues in Brighton excited and intrigued by the contents contained within the beautifully wrapped packages, as gifts to respond to. The drawings I received from Masahiro Osaki revealed to me my own preoccupations and habits, that challenged and enabled me to negotiate my own creative process through visual dialogue built on sameness and difference. All meaningful conversations are acts of generosity and creating dialogue through drawing is no exception. Although I must confess to selfish desires in that I wanted to keep, rather than return the drawings received!

The exhibition at NUA in December 2016 showed drawings joined by lines interweaving the thread of thought, enquiry and exchanges that connect us. From the beginning, we saw this as a project that could be developed in stages. With drawing underpinning, all subject disciplines within the newly formed School of Art at Brighton, we have the opportunity to extend the scope and reach of the project.


Duncan Bullen
University of Brighton

Fisher, Joel (2009) Notes Towards a Prepositional Drawing, Drawing Research Network Conference, Cochrane Theatre, London, 8 October 2009. http://www.simcoe.co.uk/drawing/reviews.htm

Berger, J. (2005), Berger on Drawing, edited by Jim Savage, Occasional Press, Co Cork, Ireland.

Drawing_Dialogue_Project .pdf

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