200 miles of graphite - Art Collector

Emma Capps on Julian Simmons’ orbicular drawings on display at Lychee One

Julian Simmons, NOW, installation view, Lychee One, Bethnal Green, 2015.

By Emma Capps

In the online text accompanying Julian Simmons’ current exhibition at Lychee One gallery in Bethnal Green, the artist approximates the distance his pencil must have travelled to create the intensely dense and repetitive orbicular drawings on display. He thinks it took “between 75,000 and 150,000 feet of graphite line, 15 to 30 miles of tone and bare intention; in all 11 drawings probably over 200 miles”.

The frame of mind one might need to inhabit in order to cover 200 miles in pencil is suggested in the vague, trippy tone of Simmons’ explanation for the works, in which the “Tibetan concept of the cosmos” is briefly mentioned, alongside the “Celestial Breast”, and the “Cosmic Eye”. These terms (other than reminding us of the frequent uselessness of written explanations for visual art) allude to a state of consciousness that isn’t founded on logic or reason, but on another kind of cognition which is rooted in the spiritual, or the meditative, or the hypnotic.

Many years ago, Henri Michaux made a name for himself by ingesting mescaline and drawing the results. Through his hysterical scribbles we can observe his obsessive commitment to following the impulses of his mind and to produce, again and again, the same line. Where Michaux’s drawings were wild and deranged, and Simmons’ are obsessively well ordered, we see in both artists’ work the mysterious attraction of automated drawing. Whether or not he is “Milking the Mystical” (as Simmons suggests), this show speaks to the enduring practice of taking a fine-tipped pencil to paper in an attempt to diagram the workings of a mind.

Julian Simmons, NOW, shows at Lychee One from 25 November - 22 December 2015.

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