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“Transformations”: Thomas Lyon Mills November 16, 2009

Posted by claralieu in artists, drawing.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Transformations“, an exhibition scheduled for March 2010, will examine artists who work between 2-D and 3-D media. Today’s post is a preview of Thomas Lyon Mills’ unusual and breathtaking artwork which deals with themes of memory, time, and mapping.  Mills is a Professor of Drawing at the Rhode Island School of Design in the Division of Foundation Studies. He recently completed a sabbatical where he is the only non-archeologist who has been granted permission to explore and work alone in the Roman and Neapolitan catacombs. This past November and December, he was on a grant to work in Kapadokya and underground cities in central Turkey. Below you can read a short excerpt from his artist statement.

Thomas Lyon Mills

“No.63 from the series 73 Prayers in the Underground”, 2001 – 2006
40.75” x 35.75”, watercolor, charcoal, conte crayon, collage.

Drawing: Making and Unmaking
Thomas Lyon Mills, Professor, Rhode Island School of Design
June 2009

Despite increasingly precise measurements, contemporary maps of the cosmos or the minutiae of the sub-atomic world will likely be no more accurate in the future than ancient seafaring maps that included half-remembered landscapes and sea monsters.

Like mapmakers, we draw and paint what we observe, but find our drawings inevitably cross over into the unknown, for, like maps, they are never truly, wholly accurate, never allowing for shifting points of view, or even the necessity of dreams.

This then, is our region – where the visible and invisible meet, where the observed and the intuitive lie side by side, and where the seen pays a constant debt to the unseen.

Thomas Lyon Mills

Everything changes when we draw: channels open up between our eyes and our breathing, heart rate, and neurological paths.  Borders dissolve between touch, smell, and sound.  Along with this synaesthesia, primordial forces rush in.  The ideas absorbed when we draw are infinitely better than when we don’t draw.  And, like making maps, what we draw we remember; what we don’t draw, we forget.

But like maps, drawing is about the specific, not the general: about revealing ideas with precision and authority.  Ironically, it is the discrepancy between one’s unfocussed marks – one’s lack of precision compared with the purity of the subject, full of complexity and unseen forces at work – that leads to the prolonged search.

We learn from myriad artists’ work including Matisse and Giacometti and their clouds of erased marks, the breathing and ghosts in the drawings of Michelangelo, Mu’ Chi, and Tohaku, and in the mirrored worlds of Piero.


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