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"Motion Pictures: Drawing While Moving" by Kenneth Helphand

Mar 5, 2020 - Mar 27, 2020


Mediatheque at PNCA

PNCA Atrium

Undergraduate Graduate CCA&C M+T+C CE Exhibitions

511 NW Broadway
Portland, OR, 97209   [map]

PNCA is proud to present “Motion Pictures: Drawing While Moving” by Kenneth Helphand, Philip H. Knight Professor of Landscape Architecture Emeritus at the University of Oregon.

How do we experience nature at a glance? In the modern world it is most often from a moving vehicle. Film and video capture movement, but my question and interest has been in how to record, describe and also evoke movement through space through drawings. My process parallels the movement itself, because it is done “on site” while the vehicle is in motion; the drawings are done rapidly, and the response is direct and immediate. It is a reminder that our landscape impressions are almost instantaneous, versus to the reflection granted when doing conventional drawings on site.

All of my drawings were done rapidly, in real time forcing quick decisions. It is an aspect of what Edna Duffy in The Speed Handbook calls “speed vision.” There is an affinity with the automatic drawing so lauded by the Surrealists in an attempt to bypass conscious thought. The drawings are field notes that can act in many roles; as survey, record and an interpretive record of the landscape experience. They offer distinct and unique vantage points that offer not only a viewpoint, but also a point of view.

I have recorded train and plane journeys as a continuous panorama, but I have experimented with many approaches. I have encapsulated a journey on a single sheet continuously drawing the patterns and views of the ground, layering one atop another; the page becomes an overlay of after images – the drawing is a self-conscious palimpsest. Trying to capture the fleeting experience and a sense of speed is akin to a visual after image.

On a train and airplane, we look through a window much like Alberti prescribed almost six centuries ago in his treatise De Pictura (On Painting). “First of all, on the surface which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen.”

Kenneth Helphand