Drawing: a jump in knowledge (Colloquium on Art and Child, La maison des Artistes, Paris, November 2005)

Mihalis Papadakis, sculptor
President of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece
Vice-president of the International Association of Arts
Paris, November 2005
(Colloquium on Art and the Child, La maison des Artistes, Paris,)

Drawing: a jump in knowledge

When we see a child painting or drawing, we find it amusing and the drawings that he/she does funny or cute. How many of us, though, can see in this activity a giant step in the way that the child understands the world? A step, so important for the person, as for the mankind as well, as when man discovered Fine Arts as a way of understanding-knowing, communicating and designing his action?

When the child draws lines, by which it creates images, it describes how it understands its own world, and it projects its feelings. This way it becomes capable of handling its natural powers –imagination, instinct and intuition- and giving them a shape (objective presence). The same way it also learns to handle them for the creation of knowledge.

During the operation of Drawing, the subject transforms the stimuli of a three-dimensioned and multi-colored world to an image that consists of simple, one-color lines, on a surface. In two dimensions, that is. Right from the beginning, the operation of drawing itself sets the reduction-abstraction as its absolute prerequisite. From the multiple to the one, from three to two dimensions. With drawing we are forced to think abstractively, namely the essence of things. In the following lines I will give an explanation on how I think this happens:
When we draw, we start from the visual stimulus (irrespective if it is present or just a memory of it). We start, that is to say, from the stimuli that the objective world or the object has provoked to the eye. This stimulus with the intervention of Imagination –which is our ability to combine it with the experience of our other senses-, is transformed to an image of the object in our mentality, but it is placed outside the eye, in space. From the perspective of Physiology we should see the objects reversed in our retina. However, we can see them in space, and this is thanks to Imagination.
Imagination as a power (not only of humans) combines the experience of our moving in space with the stimuli of things on our senses. These stimuli compose the world as images of mentality, where things are outside of it (the mentality), where they really are, that is to say.
What we call emotional approach of the object and which is very intense for the child, is the effort to recognize the world from the point of view of how useful it is to itself (the child) or not. The emotional approach refers to the species (the human in the specific case) and is called Instinct or instinctive knowledge.
Nevertheless (despite the emotional approach, that is) the constitution of the mental image is the moment of the Live Conception, where the stimulus of the object (positive) is its main constitutive element.
For the child, as well as for Man’s society in its infancy, the need of grouping objects in big families, helping it to be placed firstly in its environment, leads it to big abstractions, by means of symbols, e.g. home, father, mother, ship, sea, mountain etc. In these symbols the general ideas-groups are drawn, not as representations that refer to specific things or persons surrounding it, but clearly as symbols. Is this not what the mankind had done during its childhood?
The objective world surrounding the child and the mental images that this world creates in the conception of the child is the content of the symbol. With the effort to handle and process its mental images, to exchange them with other persons (if they are objectified images on a piece of paper) it develops its symbols from individual to collective, and through this transformation of symbols it acquires the ability to conceptualize the collective (human) character of its images and to communicate. This procedure helps the child to understand deeply both the words/speech as expressions of the content and letters/writing, continually, as symbols of this content, and to trust them.

Mihalis Papadakis














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