Drawn To Travel

Joseph O'Neill

Since the epoch of cave paintings, makers of art have typically privileged the studio and the special investigation that working in a sheltered space may facilitate. The indoor investigator has on his or her side obvious advantages, among them immobilization (of artist and subject); materials and amenities; and, most important perhaps, time. Working comfortably, statically and at length enables the prolonged noticing and reworking that we associate with the quest to make a 'finished' or 'perfected' visual thing.

The inverted commas express modern misgivings about the feasibility and aptness of the quest. Modernity, in this context, goes back to Charles Baudelaire, who coined the term in order to describe the dimension of experience newly offered to, and by, the flaneur. the receptive urban wanderer (and his relatives, the tourist and the drifter and the rambler) of course became an indispensable protagonist of modern culture. He figures in countless fictions and underwrites, famously, the speculations of Walter Benjamin and the photographs of Henri cartier-Bresson; but even they did not foresee our world of handhelds, in which we have no option but to become technicians of the ephemeral.

The travel drawings by Simon Page enter this visual crisis. Situated somewhere between the tweet and the atelier, they propose a kind of looking that embraces the temporary perpsective even as it rejects electronic instantaneity. The result is a distinctive openness and velocity of observation. These drawings are pithy. They seem free, and their freedom, it seems, happily infects the eye and the hand of the artist, who cannot avoid - and indeed seeks out - implication in the feelings and doings of his subjects. There is a profound human proximity in tese drawings. They depict us (on holiday, at leisure) in states of defenselessness, and yet they do not exercise power over us. An ethics of seeing reveals itself.