The Drawing Machine

Anybody who has creative friends knows the feeling.Your friend shows you a poem, the first draft of a novel, a painting or even the proposed colour scheme for the living room and there is that small pang of panic when you realise you don’t like it. And because it happens, not all the time, but often enough,  most of us have found a polite enough way to deal with it. Mine is to put my head on one side and say, “mmm; that’s really interesting.”  The beauty of it is that I sometimes say it when I do like something and genuinely think it is interesting as well. I am sure that I am not alone in using this particular formula, as I have had it said to me on quite a few occasions too.

Because I was away most of the summer, I didn’t catch up with some of the local exhibitions; in particular I hadn’t seen the De La Warr’s pick of the best offerings from the graduate shows from the University of Brighton and Sussex Coast College. With only a few days left to run, the staff were even uncertain whether it was still showing but, eventually, they directed me to the back stairs and there on the first landing was this.

Naomi Holdbrook: Drawing Machine 2

My husband snorted on seeing it. “I think it might be her’s,” I said. “She told me that she had created a drawing machine with the idea of taking herself out of the mark-making process.”  The label showed that it was indeed Drawing Machine 2 by Naomi Holdbrook.

Drawing from Drawing Machine 2

The drawings the machine had made, suggested that artists need not worry just yet about having their role usurped by robots. Elephants have done better. Immediately, the formula, “that’s really interesting,” was going round in my mind. Then we turned and, behind us, up a few more stairs, were a pair of screens showing films of the machine in action. You could suddenly see how the various broken bits on the floor must have worked.  I can honestly to say that it was one of the best and funniest art videos that I have ever seen.

In the video, we see Holdbrook attempting to control her fantastical machine as it whirrs and clunks. The pendulums sway; it runs for a time and then the various elements get out of sync;  bits fall off; the paper breaks. It is the perfect metaphor for the frustrations of artistic creation. My husband loved it. The exhibition runs only till November 1. If you have a chance, do go and have a look. I now want to see it running for real.

Naomi Holdbrook: Video Still, Drawing Machine 2
Naomi Holdbrook: Video Still, Drawing Machine 2

Platform Graduate Showcase 2015 at the De La Warr Pavillion closes on November 1

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