Kenneth Tyler Collection Curator, Anja Loughhead, shares an exercise in automatism inspired by Robert Motherwell's Abandoned book study
Robert Motherwell was an American painter and printmaker. His gestural works are attributed to the influential New York School and often they are categorised by the sweeping term ‘Abstract Expressionism’. I don’t particularly find that term very useful. In thinking about writing about Abandoned book study, 1981 I was more attuned to his practice and its relationship to the concept of ‘automatism’. Automatism is an alternative term that describes an uninterrupted drawing process used to explore the subject’s unconscious mind.1
The text that will shortly follow is an exercise in automatism. It is a series of free associations prompted by Abandoned book study, which arrived uninterrupted in text-form from my subconscious. In keeping with the principles Motherwell applied to his practice I have refused to edit the piece. It is what it is: a documented moment where the mind and body coalesce for the purpose of creative production.
It looks like a street sign. Actually no, more of a bus stop I reckon. Thinking about bus stops, that reminds me of Leon Kelly. I’m age 13 at Seymour Technical High School – possibly the top contender for my most awkward period of adolescence. I had this untamable cow lick in the middle of my fringe hair and braces. Did I have boobs yet? Probably. Leon was this moody kid I saw in Math class. He lived on some farm out past the army base. I think they had cows, does that matter? I’m not really sure it does. Well I have written it down now so we can’t leave that part out.
I had my first proper kiss with Leon at the bus stop. I’m not really sure how it happened but in the end he rammed his tongue in my mouth, with boundless energy, like someone who doesn’t know how to use a Bamix. You know one of those stick mixers used for whipping cream? Anyways, I really wasn’t sure what you were meant to do in the ‘moment’ so I just stood there, all rigid with my eyes open.
We didn’t speak after that. Did I abandon Leon? Definitely not, I don’t even think we spoke more than six words beforehand so it’s not like it made a difference afterwards. It was more like an exercise. You know, a mutual practice run for next time. When it would be more monumental. Not a weird pash at a bus stop.
- Tate, Art Term: Automatism, accessed 22 October 2018, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/automatism