Drawing Water

As Caroline Turner describes in her essay, The Spirit of Water: Flows of Art in Cross-Cultural Connections and Collaborations between Japan and Australia, interest in visual art from both countries has flowed in both directions for a number of decades, and through a number of tributaries – through scholarly and creative exchanges that were carried deep and wide by major institutions, and via smaller, more nimble currents. This project is part of those latter currents in that two-way flow, and grew from a number of exchange projects between staff and students from the Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith University, and those from Tokyo University of the Arts (TUA) and Joshibi University of Art and Design. Looking back, it’s probably been the smaller, intimate nature of the ongoing exchanges that have built the strongest links. In turn, those small exchanges have generated a range of outcomes of lingering significance. Those outcomes include artworks, art projects, exchange students, art exhibitions, writing, catalogues, and importantly, friendships. This project also grew from a research initiative focused on drawing supported by the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research (GCCAR). In 2015, the focus was developed into the Drawing International Brisbane symposium. For the second iteration of DIB, in 2016, the idea of an international focus on a cross-cultural collaborative exchange laboratory in Tokyo promised to both reinforce the bonds built through previous interactions, as well as to extend the DIB research platform into artist-lead, studio-based approaches. This cross-cultural exchange was facilitated by co-curator Dr. Linda Dennis via her organization Touch Base Creative Network. Over the years, travelling between Japan and Australia, Linda has been instrumental in a number of exchange projects between QCA, TUA and Joshibi. The project grew in three stages – (1) in the months before the collaborative workshop in Tokyo held in September 2016, students from all three institutions began the process through a series of online communications. Their arrival was followed by on-site collaborative research endeavors in or around Tokyo. These research trips then segued into a workshop situation that culminated in an exhibition at AIR 3331 in Tokyo. After the Australian students returned home, online communications between the artists followed, and the Joshibi students wrote their responses to the projects to be used in this catalogue. (2) Back in Brisbane, new work was designed for the lightboxes and banners of the Brisbane City Council’s Vibrant Laneways project for five sites where the work was exhibited between December 2016 and March, 2017. (3)

This online catalogue is another essential aspect of the Drawing Water collaborative research project, and extends the visual arts focus through drawing together writers from museum studies, from curatorial expertise, from science and medicine, together with Indigenous cultural experts and members of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute. Ideas and responses flow through both words and images, through suggestions and assertions, through facts and dates as well as through imaginative propositions. The passion and poetic resonance about the necessity of water and its denizens flow through each of the essays and across all disciplines. The ‘drawing’ aspect of the research project relates first and foremost to that activity that lies at the heart of all visual art practice. It’s an activity that’s provisional and speculative rather than definitive, and it’s not contained by any specific medium. The fluidity of drawing – its capacity to change artistic and conceptual directions together with the fact that it’s embedded in the riskier, experimental aspects of art practice - makes for much of its mercurial appeal. When linked to the inconstant element of water, the tenuous challenge to ‘draw water’ magnifies the slippery possibilities even further. The project’s aims seek continuities between disparate voices and experiences; it is launched as a research experiment that seeks for connections that might lie somewhere ‘out at sea’, beyond the determined boundaries and coastal edges of separate disciplines.

Water is mutable, capricious, fluid, as is the process of drawing. The invitation to ‘draw water’, therefore, has invited all kinds of mutations and transformations and possibilities. In the two terms embodied in its title, it doubly defers the definitive. Instead of delineations, demarcations, classifications or categorisations, it stakes out sites for more open-ended possibilities. Drawing Water is a project that entertained the idea that all kinds of navigations might be possible; all kinds of outcomes are probable. It was launched in the hope that rafts lashed together from unlikely beginnings can often be sailed towards promising new connections.

Prof. Pat Hoffie, December 21, 2016.