An exhibition features dark corners of the mind revealed in graphite

Brian Wood, Torque, 2008, Graphite on paper, 46″ x 26″, Courtesy of the artist and Arts + Leisure, 2019

Unless an artist intends a white surface to stay white, it will most likely change. How it changes is where individuality, personification of touch and aesthetic come into play. Freud, delved into the psychological aspects of relationships and when reaching into the unconscious these moments, just may appear on paper. In this case, Brian Wood has been making Drawings alongside his larger and more colorful paintings, for many years. While the two bodies of work overlap, they are also quite different. On view at Arts + Leisure are a series of graphite works in simple white frames. Evenly spaced on either side of the narrow gallery, the drawings morph the longer they are looked at. When asked, Wood said that when he sits down to make a drawing, they are incredibly personal. However, his particular goal, is to work until they no longer feel personal but rather distant, even strange.

Brian Wood, Hathor, 2019 (left) and Maw (2018), Graphite on paper, both 11″ x 14″, Courtesy of the artist and Arts + Leisure, 2019

With titles such as Maw (2018), Torque (2008), and Slip Stream (2017), there is a dark underbelly brewing, although that doesn’t necessarily mimic the process or how the marks appear on the surface. Rather than spend a lot of time laboring or overthinking, the works in Drawings, are the opposite and Wood shared that he makes them rather quickly, producing several in one session. Not focused on telling a story, it has a somewhat narrative feel, each drawing an individual entity but existing as part of a larger whole. There are also visual tropes that repeat or seem to reappear thematically. While the finished work feels less personal to the artist, a viewer may have the opposite reaction, for as the artist has made space between the purposeful marks and his consciousness, it is in that lack of self-awareness that the drawings actually, in my opinion, become much more personal. In fact, in this separative, dream-state, one might say they are the purest form of self expression or self portrayal. Searching for detachment, perhaps yearning for a phantom-limb, the artist’s hand is attached to his body, his mind, his consciousness.

In a state of unconscious mark-making, can one still identify form or rather make something that others can recognize? Looking at Brian Wood’s drawings, they fall into their own category. But when searching history for similarities, one might arrive at a cross-section between Kandinsky and Yves Tanguy, blurred with a flicker of Robert Crumb’s sexual pandering. For anyone with knowledge of anatomical drawings of the human body, it’s impossible to not see vaginal cavities, the uterus and ovaries, insects, teeth and penises. The latter is not in the mind’s eye but quite literally drawn, even if masked by undefined surrounding shapes —smudged, blended, swept with charcoal. This is where we return once again to Freud who stated,

“The unconscious is the larger sphere, which includes within it the smaller sphere of the conscious. Everything conscious has an unconscious preliminary stage; whereas what is unconscious may remain at that stage and nevertheless claim to be regarded as having the full value of a psychical process.” – Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900.

I believe that all artists when truly engaged in the creative process, can slip into the unconscious and writers too for that matter. Yet, there is a fascinating question that arises. Even the Beat Poets, their free flowing verses, following the rhythm of jazz or rampant manic thought, allowed for formalism and structure to creep in. Is that is the crux of art-making or human design? Wherein even while information pours out, there are certain limitations one must work with to complete a piece, such as the chosen size of a piece of paper or medium. Rules, even if self-imposed help bring work to fruition. In the wild wood of the unconscious, putting pencil to paper is the action where clouds of the mind take shape. Drawing quickly and intuitively, rectangular paper and a simple frame as a finishing element, help make the memory a reality.

Brian Wood, Plank, 2017, Graphite on paper, 14″ x 11″, Courtesy of the artist and Arts + Leisure, 2019

Brian Wood, Drawings at Arts + Leisure spans 2008-2019 and is on view until September 1, 2019.


Katy Diamond Hamer is the Founding Editor of Eyes Towards the Dove a platform on contemporary art and culture. She writes for several print and online publications, lectures and is a content curator. For more of her writing and art world travels, follow her on Instagram @katyhamer