Reviews & Essays
Inner Workings
City Beat
“Drawing is the life and soul of paintings,” wrote 16th-century artist and teacher Francisco Pacheco. For serious artists, drawing is the essential practice that keeps them honest while allowing them to reach beyond existing boundaries. Occasionally, artists agree to let us see their explorations on paper, as have the two artists in Perpetual Drawings: An Invitational Exhibition. The line drawings of Regina Granne and the weightier tonal works of David Leach offer contrasting approaches.

In his artist’s statement, Leach describes drawing as “the active aspect of observing – the power of noticing rather than a recording of facts and events.” Perhaps this explains why Leach sticks to a fairly consistent subject – a stand of trees in a forest. By repeating a familiar theme, Leach frees himself from “recording” and allows himself to observe the mark-making possibilities of conté crayon, charcoal, gouache and lithography.

However, the types of marks he makes are almost routinely choppy, straight, horizontal and vertical bands. Although in some cases, such as “Colorado Pines,” he manages to provide some relief by alternating values and using cast shadows to break up the horizontal dominance, I found his works to be overly repetitive.

A few of Leach’s works, however, deserve special mention. In particular, “Ground Plan, Winter,” gouache painting, employs a more unusual composition. A crucifix of tree limbs positioned in the immediate foreground draws us into the landscape, where the blue-and-brown palette warms this chilly scene. I also enjoyed “Back Yard,” a conté drawing on paper. Here, the upward thrust of the tree shapes reflects the burgeoning growth of this summer setting, but Leach wisely tempers that movement with a calm, dappled light across the foreground.

On the other hand, I felt the line drawings of Regina Granne beautifully express her evolving interests and her steady vision as an artist. Her lines are confidently lyrical, yet her drawings retain a delicate, sketchy quality that gives us a glimpse into her working process. That’s how Granne defines drawings: “I think of drawing primarily as the visual equivalent of talking to myself – a way of making what I am thinking about visible.”

Apparently, one of Granne’s primary interests is the way shapes can overlap, interrelate and connect with one another. Her pencil drawing “Stacked Still Life” is a centrally placed piece of fruit, a jar of flowers immediately behind it, and a pitcher immediately behind the jar. Each object is rendered with detailed precision, but we’re not meant to see them as separate units. Instead, Granne has melded them into a cohesive, organic shape that is captivating in its individuality. She’s also employed the same overlapping strategy to unify the disparate elements in “Flowers.”

Granne also enjoys experimenting with the line’s ability to deceive our eyes and cleverly pull us in a multitude of directions. Her series of drawings done in a friend’s house are almost unsettling, yet totally fascinating, due to shifting perspective. Particularly in “Catherine’s Stair #6,” where we’re poised at the stair landing, the banister directs our eyes to the upper left corner of the hall, but somehow also carries us down – or is it up? – to the center of the drawing where we find the humble umbrella stand in the entryway. By presenting these scenes as if we’re seeing them through a panoramic camera lens, she creates the illusion of sweeping vistas in a relatively shallow space.

Clearly, Granne has done her homework in studying the drawings of great artists of the past. “Marika and Jacapo” is just one of three drawings of models in her studio that also contain studies of classical artworks breaking into the front of the picture plane. Drawings and sketches also show up in several other studio scenes. “Marika and Luca” includes a tiny version of one of the other still lifes in this same exhibit, “Diana’s Table I.”

In writing his treatise, Arte de la Pintura, Pacheco noted, “Here (in drawing) are needed courage and steadfastness; here giants themselves have a lifelong struggle, in which they can never for a moment lay aside their arms.” We can only hope that Granne and Leach continue to “struggle” with their drawing and with their art, since the results are fruitful explorations for them and enlightening works for us.

- Jennifer King