Contemporary illustration has long been regarded as the poor cousin of art. Traditionally associated with an intimate moment in the act of creating, or an intermediate step toward visual expression, it is now coming out of portfolios, leaping at our walls and becoming a genre in its own right. Smaller formats have been driven out by monumental drawings, as if some artists wanted to challenge painters and prove their point: that you can achieve maximum effect with minimal tools. This recognition was made possible by the determined efforts of Drawing Now Paris, which has joined the age of reason and settled in Carrousel du Louvre for the past three years.
Of the many events showcased, the most exciting one was ‘The Imaginary Museum’ by Jean de Loisy. Defining contemporary drawing in a more general sense, his works prove that brushes and pencils aren’t the only tools for drawing. An evanescent and transparent illustration, ‘Garden of Delights, Jérôme Bosch’, produced by Patrick Neu, uses lamp-black on glass, while Karin Sander experiments with ultra-thin, quasi-spectral shapes. Her Haarzeichnungen is a collection of 67 drawings, each composed with a single hair. Londoner Sai Hua Kuan and his Space Drawing series operates in 3D, exploring the function of a line through a sculptural video work, echoing Russian abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky’s geometric theory.
Offering a 360 view of its processes, Drawing Now Paris presents, alternately erotic, conceptual, metaphysical, hyper-realistic and plastic, drawings by its artists. Among the most promising was Japan’s Emi Miyashita, displaying small-scale drawings using sexual imagery in a non-sexual way. Julien Tiberi addressed a history of exhibition with ‘Riristi.mes unlimited’, while Julien Serve sought to represent Switzerland, this year’s country of honour, through minimalist drawings taking place against the backdrop of 651 news agency dispatches.
Other works that leave no conceptual, abstract, or hyper-realistic schools aside are Croatian artis Davor Vrankic, whose fascinating exquisite corpse, ‘Home Variations’, depicts ultra-detailed surrealist imagery in four panels, each one composed of 12 interchangeable drawings with no less than 3000 combinations. Valentin Van Der Meulen’s performative work includes a large scale portrait of a migrant woman, questioning issues of representation, identity and cultural heritage by erasing part of the portrait with applied rubber strokes.
A mega-hub for contemporary drawing, there is no other fair of Drawing Now Paris’ magnitude to date, dwarfing the first edition of Belgium’s Namur International Biennal of Contemporary Drawing by comparison. Its influence has grown wider in recent years, as reflected in the advent of specialized magazines like Rouge Gorge, Roven or Frédéric Magazine. And contemporary drawing is more than an alternative for selling works at affordable prices, or launching emerging artists. It also encompasses an independent and free approach to art.