Invisible Drawing

If a drawing is invisible, does it still exist in your mind?

Teach conceptual thinking: contrasting invisible drawing with traditional drawing

Use the ideas on this page to teach conceptual thinking, when the idea is more important than the thing. (Read more about conceptual thinking at Art and Authenticity )

Incorporate this assignment during a unit on drawing to contrast traditional observational drawing techniques and open up a discourse on conceptual drawing. Limit the outcomes to drawing only to maximize the comparison.

Disappearing Act

Chinese artist Song Dong has written a daily diary on a particular block of stone for years.

Each day he lovingly writes his entry in water, and it disappears, leaving only the memory embedded in the stone. He has carried this stone with him for years, it contains the story of his life.

Tok and Art Questions

Erased de koonig drawing by Robert Rauschenberg-MOMA

Erased De Koonig

In 1953 Robert Rauschenberg took a drawing by the already famous Willem de Koonig, and, with the artists consent, he carefully erased it and gave it a title: Erased de Koonig Drawing. This wasn't vandalism he said, but poetry.

  • If he erased his own drawing would it have the same effect?
  • Is what is not there more important than what is there?
  • How important is the title in this case?
  • What is the viewers role when looking at this?
  • Does not knowing what the drawing looked like make us want to see it more?
  • Does our imagining make us an active participant in the artwork?

Invisible Drawing Activities

Studio Work

Make a piece of art that deals with the idea of invisibility, either literally or figuratively. Maybe it can only be seen under certain conditions, light, or situations. When making ephemeral art work (i.e it disappears) then make sure you document the process with photos or video before its gone!

Process Portfolio Artist Research

Be sure to include Reviewing, Reflecting, Refining ,an assessed criteria in the Process Portfolio. Find out more about Song Dong, or look up one of the artists in the box below, from the exhibition Art about the Unseen at the Hayward Gallery and get points for Critical Investigation

Unseen Art by...

Spanning a range of different practices over the last seven decades, the artists and works presented in Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957 – 2012:

Yves Klein – one of the earliest proponents of invisible art, Klein embarked on a long-term project between 1957 and 1962 to create an ‘architecture of air’: walls, ceilings and furniture would be made of air, and while these things would exist, they wouldn’t be visible. The exhibition includes Klein’s architectural drawings, as well as a series of works and supporting documentation revolving around his concept of “le Vide” (the Void)

Andy Warhol: Invisible Sculpture (1985) – an invisible sculpture that Warhol created at New York’s Area nightclub by stepping on a plinth and then stepping off, presumably leaving traces of his celebrity status in the plinth’s airspace

Tom Friedman: Untitled (A Curse), 1992 – to create this sculpture, Friedman hired a practicing witch and instructed her to cast a curse on a spherical space, eleven inches in diameter and positioned eleven inches over an empty plinth. Friedman will also be exhibiting 1000 Hours of Staring (1992 – 97), a piece of white paper which the artist stared at for 1000 hours over the course of five years

Gianni Motti: Magic Ink, 1989 – a series of drawings, sketched in invisible ink, which were visible only for a brief instant before vanishing

Yoko Ono’s ‘Instruction Paintings’ (1961 – 1964) – a set of typed instructions exhibited on the wall that encourage the audience to create the work in their imagination

Jeppe Heine: Invisible Labyrinth (2005) – a maze that only materialises as visitors move around it. Visitors are equipped with digital headphones operated by infrared rays that cause them to vibrate every time they bump into one of the maze’s virtual walls. The maze structure spans seven different variants, changing from day to day

Bruno Jakob – over the past 25 years Jakob has devised different means of making invisible paintings, including a method involving exposing a lightly primed canvas to the ‘energy’ of a person, animal or environment. The exhibition will feature a selection of these paintings, inviting the viewer to consider them as an action-based practice rather than a finished product

Maurizio Cattelan’s Untitled (Denunzia) (1991) – a standard Italian police form that officially documents the artist’s claim that an invisible sculpture had been stolen from his car in Milan.

Lai Chih-Sheng – will create a giant ‘invisible drawing’ by using a pencil to draw over all of the existing lines formed by the gallery’s interior architecture.

Full list of artists: Art & Language, Robert Barry, Chris Burden, James Lee Byars, Maurizio Cattelan, Jay Chung, Song Dong, Ceal Floyer, Tom Friedman, Mario Garcia Torres, Jochen Gerz, Horst Hoheisel, Carsten Höller, Tehching Hsieh, Bethan Huws, Bruno Jakob, Yves Klein, Lai Chih-Sheng, Glenn Ligon, Teresa Margolles, Gianni Motti, Claes Oldenburg, Roman Ondák, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol.

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Art of the Unseen an exhibition at the Hayward

Drawing with lemons

This young artist recently won the Aguazero prize at Los Gasquez, where I was an artist in residence a few years ago. I include an example of her work as it shows both an original use of materials, ( lemons), their connotations of fragility, secrecy and impermanence. There are also strong cultural and historical ties to her country, Japan, in her work.

Homma’s images are not made by pigment sitting on the surface of the paper but a technique usually associated with secret correspondence used in the past, called ‘aburidashi’ in Japanese.

What the artist says about her work

‘Invisible Ink made with lemon juice is used to draw images, slightly altering the delicate balance of paper, once exposed to heat, images are burnt into paper as an integral part of its structure, which are then washed through in water to rid of the trace of acidity. The resulting image contains a level of fragility and notion of death within it by nature. In my work the connotation of transience associated with the methodology is important as it highlights a position at the opposite end of spectrum from the monumentalism, even through the actual physicality of the drawing endures. The importance of this notion of ephemeral has been acutely felt though the recent Japanese Nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, as it has highlighted an environmental landscape on the brink of a catastrophic paradigm change, and the fragility of our existence on this planet. Being a Japanese artist, the above notion is no longer simply a theoretical concern but personal’.- Kaori Homma
Read more about using unusual substances for making art in Mad Materials

The Buddha Board

This is a little bit gimmicky but fun nevertheless. It is essentially a drawing slate where you paint with water and the image lingers a moment then evapoartes, Like Song Dongs water diary stone but ready made. It comes in several sizes and costs form 11- 40 $. More info at Buddha Board website

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