Finally, Process opened in Saint John. Process, an exhibition of works-in-progress by Saint John sculptor Jason Fitzpatrick (another NSCAD alumnus), was almost entirely an exhibition of drawings. These simple works were the result of intense labour. Rectangular fields of graphite, they were either uniformly covered or covered and then erased. The erased images are each the result of nine passes – cover, erase, cover, erase, nine times. A proves demanding on both the materials and the artists – the paper tended to wear out and the artist’s muscles to seize up. These drawings were finished works, but they pointed in directions that Fitzpatrick intends to go. Not studies or models per se, the works in Process point to the architectural scale works Fitzpatrick intends to pursue. On the wall outside his studio is his only extant architectural drawing, to date anyway – a floor to ceiling drawing with the scale of an exposed beam.
In the work of Fitzpatrick, Major and Paschakarnis, the line between drawing and sculpture is blurry – if not erased out-right. These are things first and images second, if at all.
In Fitzpatrick’s recent sculpture, Conduit 3: Volume, a canvas trough filled with black ink hung quietly in the gallery with the weightiness of a soaked sponge and all the potential energy of a coiled spring. It scribed a liquid line in space, and it wasn’t hard to imagine it as the source of all the lines in the world. The canvas was saturated with wax, but it still leaked, creating a pattern of drips on the floor and the appearance of black seat all over the trough itself. Conduit 3: Volume its space, routing the viewer around it to navigate its shores. For all of its aggressive simplicity, the work carried poetic and symbolic resonance, at once ship and sea, potential and actuality.
Was this a drawing? Yes, a drawing conceived in three dimensions, and thus a sculpture as well. In a related work Fitzpatrick soaked a coil of rope in printers ink for several weeks. The resulting coil is profoundly black, its presence altered in a way that no surface coating do. Fitzpatrick is interested in the idea of sculpture as “the residue of labour” and his works on paper, rectangular swaths of graphite, ink, blood or other materials, achieve the lustre created by repetitive work.
For Fitzpatrick drawing is at base a reductive art, and a minimal one. “I’ve always been trying to get rid of myself in my work,” he says.