These drawings are the result of two short residencies at Gordon House, Margate, UK. I was invited by Lucy Lyons to record the interior walls and floors of this soon to be renovated Grade II listed Georgian building during May and July 2018.
The drawings were made by placing layout paper cut to 30x30cm onto the uneven surfaces, and isolating a 20cm square with a gridded window. I would then attempt to draw straight lines with pencil and ruler. For each drawing I used the same pencil (an HB graphite stick, in a holder), the same ruler and the same size and weight of paper. Each drawing is produced in the time it takes to draw 39 horizontal lines each with a 0.5cm space between each. Each line would take approximately 3 seconds to draw, with an approximate gap of 6 seconds to reposition the ruler before the next line. Each drawing takes about 6 minutes from the first drawn line to the last. The composition in these drawings is in the subjective choice of where to place the paper, a decision aided by the use of a view finder to frame and isolate a particular surface. These drawings are a development of the Circus Street project from 2015 and the Breath Drawings.
Breath Drawings have emerged directly from and are a confluence of Gatherings and Circus Street. They form part of a research project Touching the World Lightly, with colleagues Jane Fox and Philippa Lyon in the School of Art at the University of Brighton. http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/ttwl/
Breath Drawing 03.07.16 30x30cm
Duncan Bullen, Drawing and Laser cut 1
Gatheringsbegan in 2011 are an ongoing series of drawings. Here the drawing process is reduced to the elementary activity of making one mark after another, through a series of point-to-point connectors. Each drawn mark on the surface of the paper becomes the trace of an action that in turn creates a kind of mesh-work of illusory space and optical transformation. In these drawings, I am interested of activating the picture plane via a slow and patient marking of the surface. Each drawing begins with an initial plotting of patterned formations, derived from a basic grid.
These patterned structures act as a kind of scaffolding, which allows for the constant interplay between pattern and the sensory spread of colour or tone. These structures also act as a kind of map, which predetermines the terrain of the drawing, as a place of departure and return. There is no mark on top of another, nothing hidden and no concealing. I like the fact that people can get caught up in the surface and think about the way the drawing is made and can witness that each small drawn mark is a gesture, with its own unique textural quality. Furthermore, it is precisely the articulation of the white space of the paper from a perceived negative space (no-thing) into a positive (some-thing) that intrigues me. Thus, the white of the paper becomes an experiential site of potential relationships, an affirmative space.
This questioning of the space between is further enhanced by the near invisibility of the drawing that leads to a deceleration of perception. The intention is to induce a slower, yet more concentrated and alert looking, in so doing, this may heighten an awareness of, and sensitivity to the slightest of variations of perception. This near invisibility makes presentation of the work crucial and reproduction difficult. Therefore, the materiality and embodied physical experience of making and seeing are importantly and inextricably linked. In fact, I would like to think that the articulation between mark and space in these drawings might bring into question where one process begins and where it ends.
Drawing # 30.11
Drawing # 10.11
Drawing # 20.11
Drawing # 17.11
Drawing # 28.11
onca drawing, crushed elderberry ink and blue 2015 30x30cm
Drawing # 08.11
Drawing # 09.11
Chromatic Fields is a collaboration with composer Jamie Crofts. The project centred around a limited edition ‘artist’ book, which explored our shared interests in composition, notation, drawing, music and silence. Repetition and near–repetition, rotation and permutation are also of importance, as is accuracy and inaccuracy of the human hand, resulting in fluctuations in touch and pulse.
The book contains a drawing and a score: The drawing consists of points of colour arranged in patterned formations, which is rotated throughout the book by means of screen print, each time with the points of colour in a different position. The score is shown with all performance indications, staves and stems removed leaving only the notes. What remains is contour and reflection. The book incorporates performance scores and a CD of 10 Chromatic Fields for piano; compositions consisting of 176 single notes. These are the 88 notes of a piano played once through and then repeated; the difference between each piece being the order of the notes.
Drawing #38.10 [Chromatic Fields] Colour Pencil on Paper, 40x40cm 2010
Drawing #37.10 [Chromatic Fields] Colour Pencil on Paper, 40x40cm 2010
Drawing #35.10 [Chromatic Fields] Colour Pencil on Paper, 40x40cm 2010
Artist Book: Duncan Bullen & Jamie Crofts
Artist Book: Duncan Bullen & Jamie Crofts
120 Coloured Pencil Ruler Drawings
In 2010 I brought a set of Faber Castell 120 Polychromos pencils, and they looked so good in the tin that I could hardly bear to disrupt them. The arrangement seemed so perfect. I remember asking myself how does one begin to choose colours from a range of 120 when one is not making a representation or using colour symbolically? So instead of making arbitrary decisions about which colour to use next another, I saw them as a kind of ‘readymade’, by using the order they are arranged in the tin, equally, without preference for one colour over than another.
The process was simple; on a drawing board with a ruler I would take one colour and draw a straight line and then another and then another, each time I would place the pencil I had just used on the other side of my work surface. After each drawn line, I would move the ruler down equal distance, once I had drawn all 120 colours, I would begin again. This time beginning from the opposite end of the palette, drawing between each of the previously drawn lines. This produced a kind of mirroring or reflection.
Once I had drawn all 120 colours twice, the drawing was finished and I would begin another. This time I would begin from a different place within the range, i.e. begin with pencil no 40, rather than pencil no 1, the next drawing would begin with pencil no 80 etc. It was a simple system and process that placed considerable emphasis on the elemental activity of placing one mark after another. As you observe the different line takes on different qualities, some colour pencils are harder or softer than others, they therefore either wear down as the pencil is drawn from left to right or they retain shape. For me it was an exercise in retaining even pressure for each line drawn.
Just prior to making these drawing I had been working on a project with composer Jamie Crofts whose method of composing his Chromatic Fields had a direct influence.
120 Colour Pencil Ruler Drawing C
120 Colour Pencil Ruler Drawing B
120 colour pencil ruler drawing 30x30cm
Greyscalesis a series of A3 monochrome printer drawings made for an exhibition Combinations held at Seacourt Print Workshop, Northern Ireland, July 2014. The exhibition brought together five artists (Duncan Bullen, Veronique Chance, Johanna Love, Mark Graver, Stephen Mumberson) with a shared interest in hybrid and inter-medial approaches to printmaking and the relationship between established print media and evolving technologies.
I made drawings with the line tab on my computer keyboard using Ariel 6pt line covering all eleven greys in the Adobe Illustrator greyscale palette. Here near repetition and irregularities of the hand drawn is replaced by the precision of the digital mark. Yet keeping to my interest in the reduction of drawing to the elementary activity of making one mark after another, through systematic and rhythmic procedures. Making these works I was looking at the typewriter drawings of Dom Sylvester Houédard and thinking about his statement that:
All art is abstract, but the more it abstracts from its models the less it becomes mimetic descriptive or deceptive & the more it becomes concrete truthful & human.
Through the use of basic ordering systems, in which no stress is placed on one thing over and above another and the proposition that no one grey tone is inherently preferable to another, all eleven greys are allowed to coexist in equal formations and are presented as they occur and repeated. This work proposes an anti-teleological position, one that is non-goal orientated. The focus is on the material syntax of the work, and its perceptual reading. In this way the work touches upon questions of emptiness and fullness, something and nothing. These works sit somewhere between drawing and print, and are possibly one or the other, both or neither.
 Dom Sylvester Houédard, introductionancestaryandchronology, 1965, In Nicola Simpson (ed), Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, Occasional Papers, London 2012, p.165
A (6) 2 bands
A (6) 2 bands reflection
A (4) 3 bands
A (4) 3 bands reflection
A (3) 4 bands
A (3) 4 bands reflection
A (2) 6 bands
A (2) 6 bands reflection
During May, June and July 2015 I was involved in a project to explore what the particular value of drawing might be as an investigative practice, in relation to the Circus Street site of the University of Brighton. This area is earmarked for demolition and redevelopment, as part of a project to cater better for future educational needs.
When I first went into the space with a group of students to draw, my response was that I could not possibly document the entirety of the building to truly meet the proposition. It provoked in me a memory of being on Foundation and being faced with a brief and how to interpret it. So, while the students walked around and chose places to sit and draw, I found myself walking around and just sitting. So, after spending sometime dwelling, just sitting in the space, I began drawing, using paper, ruler and pencil. As I was drawing I was less concerned with what the drawing looked like, but it was more the process, the action. I drew to gain understanding, not simply in an intellectual sense, but more so as awareness of a felt sense, rooted in my body – a certain kind of self-awareness, on the nature of how things are, rather than what things might mean or represent.
In order to make each drawing I simply laid the paper onto the rough, worn walls and floor of the former market place. To draw a straight line was not in my grasp because of the resistance and disruption of the uneven ground on which the paper was placed. Consequently, each line became a record of the moment of making and determined by factors, which would send the line in directions beyond my control.
With the Circus Street drawing’s I was particularly concerned with the necessity of a direct and physical process - the relationship between the hand, the drawing material and paper, as well as how my body was positioned in the space as I knelt, stood or sat. And like with my other drawings I drew with a rhythm that is concurrent with my breathing. I drew each line on the in-breath, as one might count the breath in mindfulness mediation moving between rational measure or agency and the surrendering of agency to chance.
Sunlight Prints are an emerging, speculative set of works, made by the natural bleaching of recycled paper by UV light. Laser cut stencils, derived from the same templates used for the ‘dot’ drawings act as stencils. They came about through questioning how we touch the world and looking at the marks we make. Some of these pieces were generated by my colleague Alan Boldon, while he was coordinating a residency in New Mexico, other pieces have been made by simply leaving the stencils and paper out in the print workshop at the university and or at home.
I see these exploratory pieces as a continuation of works that deal with nothing and something, of the impermanent, temporal nature of things. The idea that these pieces are made by sun light onto recycled paper, so if and when they are re-exposed to light they will continue to fade and will at some point disappear.
New Mexico (photo Alan Boldon)
Sun Light Print (Brighton)
Figuring Light: Colour and the Intangible - Djanogly Art Gallery, The University of Nottingham (14 November 2008 - 18 January 2009). Exhibition curated by Dr. Richard Davey, (Visiting Fellow, School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University). An illustrated publication (ISBN 978-1-900809-56-6) includes a forward by Professor Judith Mottram (NTU) and an essay by Davey and ‘Colour Conversations’ with each of the four artists (Duncan Bullen, Jane Bustin, Rebecca Partridge, and Richard Kenton Webb).
The invitation to participate in Figuring Light came at a point in my career when I had made a decision to reconfigure my practice. A period of reappraisal of my intentions and materials followed in which I stopped making paintings, and took an extended break from any form of printed work. Instead, I immersed myself in drawing as a primary medium, rather than as a preparatory study for a work in another medium.
The first results of this activity resulted in a group of works in which colour relationships are activated by drawn points of silver and colour pencil on gesso coated panels. Six 1 meter square and three 50x50cm drawings were exhibited as part of Figuring Light.
In these drawings colour is activated by a concentrated series of dots which when viewed from a distance, dissolve producing a fluctuating surface and indeterminate colour. What emerged from this reconfiguration was an investigation into the process of drawing as a means of generating a sensory experience of colour that explores and develops the limits of representation and a deceleration of perception.
When viewed from a distance the surfaces of Duncan Bullen’s drawings seem to move like wind rippled grass, or tide sculpted sand, shivering with luminous energy as they tease the eye with forms and colours that constantly fall in and out of focus – their proffered haloes of iridescence defying our attempts to grasp them. But stand in the artist’s space – at arms length to the gesso surface – and these nebulous, intriguing effects disappear. In their place we are confronted by something more tangible and physical – grids and chequer boards of individually drawn dots that cover the subtly tinted gesso surface with a fine net of colour… Each has its own distinctive quality, … But, however fascinating and compelling these dots are, we are soon drawn to step back and find the tipping point of wonder where the physical mechanics of the work vanish into a midst of coloured light… these drawings are a contained space of wonder in which the mesh of coloured dots drag the ineffable, intangible presence of light into the physical reality of this world to playfully dance before our eyes.… Bullen’s drawings remind us, even when we have uncovered its mechanics and discovered its physical properties, colour still brings us back to wander in wonder and marvel in mystery. The coloured marks that activate these gesso surfaces generate instances of the insubstantial, the inexplicable, the mysterious…
Richard Davey extract from ‘Figuring Light: Colour and the Intangible.