This Spring Term, the Royal Drawing School continues its series of Creative Conversations; online dialogues between artists, curators and writers. Curated by Dr Claudia Tobin, lectures are held Wednesday evenings live on Zoom.
Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings concerning water were prompted by problems. How does one swiftly build a mobile bridge? What is the nature of a wave’s movement? Close analysis of his drawings provides a unique opportunity to witness the artist’s searching intellect at work. The representation of water endlessly circulates within his corpus. Water bears witness to his extraordinary curiosity and formidable creative powers of problem solving; it returns incessantly to activate works ranging from hesitant marginal doodles to sketches, maps, and presentation drawings—all are pictorial machines powered by the visual poetics of water. For Leonardo da Vinci and his fellow artist-engineers, water is a site of oppositions: surface and depth, contingency and control, nature and invention, blindness and transparency, life preserving and life taking. Just as water’s elemental nature posed challenges of flow and control, drawing was a method of navigation as well. The act of drawing is fundamentally the flow of pen and ink on paper and control in the steady and assured sweep of an artist’s hand. It is confronting the blankness of the page to make something visible, of encountering—and countering—distortion, and above all a way of negotiating man’s place in the world.