Paul Cureton is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University, currently conducting research into drawing as 'design thinking' in architectural landscape: field drawing and poetic translation.
His recent projects have included 'Expanding Drawing', an on-going enquiry into the discursive spaces of drawing, with a planned co-curation of an international drawing exhibition in 2011.
Intrigued by his drawings, M.E. spoke to Paul to discover more about his work...
You're interested in 'how drawings 'become' - drawings as ideational, as space, as vision and as communication'. Where does this begin from for you? The architectural practice of physically 'building' begins in the same way perhaps, but for you the drawing seems to be the finished product, not a building. Why is this?
Working on spaces, they begin for me as drawings, though I am probably a victim of obsessive mark making (a lot of the surfaces become torn in the process) like an inadequate writer or typographer constantly underlining points. There are some different manifestations of drawing some of which are not shown here that contain the points of my journey. For 'Allegory of the Cave' for example, this forms part of a wider idea of re-imaging old mine workings and waste sites. Really these drawings as I see it, are part of a process yet to be realised.
Do you have an architectural background or is your interest pulled from another discipline entirely?
I am approaching the subject as a visual artist studying landscape architecture. I guess my emerging contribution to this field is to promote a further critical gaze of its imagery and use ultimately towards considerate design ecology.
Your drawing research to-date 'considers paper as an infinite space'. Looking at a number of your drawings, particularly those executed in pencil, they have hints of Ken Adam, who sketched sets for the Bond movies. Forgive the comparison, but are you exploring space in a similar manner - the fantasy of what could be?
No, comparisons are good, it helps locate the work and chip at their sometime impregnability. For 'Digging for Ernst' I was thinking about Max Ernst’s Europe After The Rain II and wanted to find a ‘live fantastical reality’ of deep sea mineral deposits, coral formations, super pressures and total darkness surrounded by mission specific oceanographic vehicles. Also I wanted to comment on the intellectual commoditisation of the history of art particularly the inversion of modernism towards privilege. While the drawings could be called ‘over finished’ really they are for me, just ideational scraps.
Have there been any artists/architects that sparked this line of research for you? Or perhaps philosophers, anthropologists, writers...?
The drawings mix and become informed by collaged imagery (mechanics etc...) but also develop their own marks derived from experience. I guess some of the work is towards one of the species of drawing I find really exciting, drawings that act as vision. Like Wolf Hilbertz and his followers drawings for Autopia (ca 1975) or ‘Bucky’ Fullers sketch for the Dymaxion map.
I think there has been a wonderful number of publications (literature, philosophy, anthropology, architectural theory, landscape architectural theory, environmental aesthetics) that have excited me to pursue this field and research - De Certeau, William Gibson, Chris Foss, Jonathan Raban, Anthony Vidler, Robin Evans, James Corner, Tim Ingbold, Dennis Cosgrove, Juhani Pallasmassa, Alberto Perez-Gomez, Allen Carlson, Arnold Berleant, Kevin Lynch, Lawrence Halprin, Aldo Leopold, Henri Lefebvre and Merleau Ponty to name just a few!
You've mentioned that your "attempt to articulate an experience of social space as a social product or spatial puzzle, something which is routinely found within urban locations such as London, arguably an uncanny experience perhaps a hyper reality" and are intended "to study and question the (in)visible and to communicate ideas".
What kind of ideas interest you most? How is a hyper reality married with real experience of real cities for you?
The city is a paroxysm of activity, especially London at night which helped me formulate quite a lot of material – for me the neon burns on your retina, an architectural facade's idealism is disrupted by pollution and the practical elements of ventilation shafts and cleaning cranes. The city glows in the sky, coupled with the urban heating phenomenon make it a strange ‘scape. I guess all I could hope some of my city drawings to do; to quote Italo Calvino is “Recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts.”
Quite a number of your imagery contains rather futuristic technological machinery. Firstly, is this real, observed industrial architecture, or the product of exploration of a theme for you? How does this work in with the social aspect of experiences?
For the CERN drawings (European Organisation for Nuclear research) I was interested in the industrial spaces being built and what I felt like a strand of utopian space; a οὐ τόπος (No Place) of virtual environments yet to be inhabited, and a prime example of perhaps, to invert your earlier suggestion, a fantasy of what is. I think this is a unique collective non-environment meditated and re-presented through the tele-visual/ media to which we are spectator. For example, I knew the space of Manhattan before I even visited, but through my experience, personally broke its iconoclasm...