While doing a bit of searching on the nature of contemporary drawing practices, I came across the American sculptor Stephen Talasnik. Talasnik creates mesmerising work in both 3D form and 2D drawings, which seem to encapsulate a world within themselves. His works all have a strong sense of geometry (which is probably why they caught my attention) and the resulting structures appear familiar while being undefined and opaque.
I came across an interesting article about Talasnik, framed under the question: What is the relationship of drawing to sculpture? This is a question I’ve been harbouring for a while as I a still considering my practice as a drawing aesthetic as opposed to a sculptural one. I need to understand what this means to be able to explain and defend it in the future. On this point, the article suggests that:
It might well be argued that sculpture, given its volumetric nature, is a more direct, or even honest, presentation of reality; drawing and painting, by contrast, are inevitably given over to a trick of the eye. Flatness suggests the recognition of two-dimensional art’s limited means in relation to the world that it takes as its cue; we can represent, to some extent, the visual complexities of what we see only if we agree to suspend our disbelief before the receding depths of what we have in front of us. Sculpture, on the other hand, has no such need to beguile us into believing what we know does not in fact exist. Its very actuality is a call to the reality we experience not only in the imagination but also in life…the art of drawing, always capable of conjuring not only what is seen in the world but also what is seen in the mind, has the freedom to extravagantly suppose. As for sculpture, it gives body to the essentially illusory nature of drawing; it puts forth, in actual terms, the imaginative compilation of drawn forms. It does what drawing cannot: it sees the form into physical reality.
Talasnik is quoted discussing how drawing is way of thinking, while sculpture provides the evidence of form: “Drawing is a fundamental tool for invention. It is the thought process, while sculpture is the material realization. Sculpture is finite, and drawing is infinite…prior to my recent involvement in sculpture, my drawings invented the real—I was interested in designing fiction. Now, with the evolution of my sculpture, my drawings are liberated from exactitude and instead explore enigmatic structure.” Although Talsnik’s drawings are metaphysical in nature, his process is such that makes clear the physicality of its making. Talasnik apparently shares the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright in believing “How something is made is as important as what it looks like”. His drawing process includes abrasion of the paper with power tools, wood-carving tools, steel file cleaners, leaving a surface embodying its creation. This in stark contrast to the ‘visionary imagination’ depicted on the page.
Inspiration for Talasnik’s practice seems to sit somewhere between architecture and engineering, both disciplines required exacting measurement and accuracy. He is clear however, that is work is generated from his imagination while at the same time being connected with reality. Talasnik is “intrigued by architecture that is able to integrate the engineering process as a visible, organic part of design.” Like his drawings, his sculptures depend on open articulation of form, made from small pieces of wood which are reinforced with glue, he create open shapes whose “gracefulness stems in part from the transparency of structure”.
The article concludes that Talasnik, for all his references to architecture and engineering, is as equally involved with the sublime.
He mediates his structures through the recognition of historical precedents that place him within a continuum of visionary artists whose imagination exceeded the ability of certain forms to be built…Talasnik is interested in approaching, even capturing, the sublime through form. His impulse to create is moderated through his extremely regulated technique; the combination of the two makes for art that is, and is not, of this world.
A couple more pictures: