Contemporary Drawing Today

The past twenty years have seen an emergence of drawing as a dynamic art form.

Since the 1990s, many artists challenged and rejected “process art” of the Conceptual and Minimalist artists from the 1960's -1970's as well as the post-1980's conceptualists.

 Artists of that earlier time period felt drawing was the “act of doing”, a direct method for documenting ideas, emotions or discoveries made during the creative process. The "action taken" was the work of art; the end product was not the principle focus.

Contemporary drawing artists today have connections to the working practice of nineteenth-century artists with representational references and fully realized art works. The artists of this new millennium differ from those in the mid twentieth century given they draw with intention, make choices and consider formal and abstract issues in their work. 

 With a resurgence in this discipline and a new found freedom, drawing artists of the twenty-first century, redefine and push boundaries in new directions. Their art sometimes flows off the page and into the real world; the visual language of the two-dimensional invades the three-dimensional merging with time and space.

 Disciplines such as sculpture, video, film and performance are incorporated into this new expanded field. Drawing artists look to outside references such as cartographic language, cartooning, video games, Chinese scroll painting and calligraphy. They employ the techniques and formal vocabularies of precision drawing, scientific and architectural drafting, industrial and commercial architecture, ornamental design and the everyday object as a way to project their ideas.  They draw upon notions of intimacy, subjectivity, history, globalization, memory, nostalgia and the narrative.They experiment and push the limits of non-traditional materials like rope, string, ribbon, mylar, film, magnetic tape, cable, wire, sticks, maps, boards, pins, nails, cardboard...the list is endless. Exploring methods by burning, soldering, cutting, projecting, tyeing, knotting, etc.

Drawing today has become a primary mode of expression.

Over the next week I will introduce you to artist's who employ drawing as the main focus in their art practice; as well as books on drawing artists and techniques.


  Julie Mehretu    "When Dawns were Young"    2004  Ink and acrylic on canvas , 140 X 189 in.

  Julie Mehretu   "When Dawns were Young"  2004  Ink and acrylic on canvas , 140 X 189 in.

Julie Mehretu is an American artist who was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 1977, the family fled their homeland immigrating to the United States and settling in Michigan. Mehreutulives and works in New York City, NY and Berlin, Germany.

Mehretu creates large-scale abstract paintings with a narrative content, one that reflects her interest in geography, architecture, history, and urban life.  Mehretu’s favourite source materials consist of architectural plans and city maps. These often incorporate schematic depictions of modern, historic or ancient buildings such as stadiums, military and industrial complexes, public spaces, airports, and financial institutions. Julie Mehretu illustrates her social concerns of power, history and globalism layered with hernarrative of place, space and time that impacts the formation of a personal and communal identity. 

Mehretu’s paintings are visually stunning, full of movement and an energy that seems to erupt and explode outward from a centrifugal force. These paintings are built using multiple layers of drawing with ink, pencil and acrylic paint. She pushes the boundaries between painting and drawing with her highly inventive and unique vocabulary of mark making. Swirling, flowing, erratic lines and symbols populate her work.