Ellsworth Kelly: sweet peas

Must pull out of the long weekend, now that it is past.  Although the 24th of May is this Friday and our Victorian holiday usually moves to synchronise with the USA's Memorial Day, which lessens its meaning somewhat, this year it didn't.  Inexplicably, we had the 24th of May on May 20.   

Yesterday another visit to the NC 139s .

Ellsworth Kelly. Banana Leaf, 1992. graphite on paper, 28 x 22"
Ellsworth Kelly, he of the huge colour block paintings in primary colours, drew flowers and leaves in pencil on paper for most of his career.  Many are collected in a book, Plant Drawings 1948-2010 (Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 2011) with an essay by Michael Semff and an interview with Kelly by Marla Prather.  

Kelly is quoted: 'They are not an approximation of the thing seen nor are they a personal expression or an abstraction.  Nothing is changed or added: no shading, no surface marking.  They are an impersonal observation of the form.'

This is how we, as young architects in the conceptual 1970s, were taught to draw, and I suppose by extension, to think.  The mind was put into a kind of zen-like suspension as the shape of the leaf went through the eyes directly to the hand; the hand was holding a pencil and a drawing was made.  The line was all.  Although there was a bit of Matisse knocking around in the brain, Kelly's strictures on making the drawing were tight: a pencil, a large sheet of paper, all line, or all shadow, or all shape.  The leaf above is the essence of leafness as held in this particular leaf, and all other leaves.   


Ellsworth Kelly. Sweet Pea, 1960. graphite on paper, 22 9/16 x 28"Flowers are just very beautiful things, however Kelly isn't drawing their beauty, he is drawing the lines of the plant, which we perhaps, or not, find lovely.  Remove the colour, the sunlight, the garden, the season, the history and one is left with the line, and a tremendous affection for the flower.  It is wholly itself.