Dasha Shishkin and Voyeuristic Pleasure

Dasha Shishkin, in an interview with ARTINFO, 2010, said “ I don’t consider them ( her work) paintings but drawings, because that is what they are to me - colored in drawings.” She later states, and this resonates with me and my own work, that Picasso quoted that “painting is an act of active participation and drawing as an act of voyeurism. I like being a voyeur for now”. I need to track down that quote by Picasso, and I also find it very comforting that someone like Dasha considers herself a voyeur, and likes it. A graduate colleague turned me onto Dasha’s work last year, remarking that she saw similarities in my work with hers when it came to subject matter and general love for line. 

Voyeuristic is often labeled as the type of work I do, and after reading this interview, I find it makes perfect sense. This is hard to accept, coming from the background of a gentlemen raised in the south. Doing work - personal work - that addresses human interactivity and sexuality in public,with implications that I am witnessing and desiring said acts is a persona that I am grappling with as an artist.  But, my work is clearly voyeuristic. Some ways more subtly that others. 

Earlier this year I started a temporary project to test abilities drawing as an artist. The purpose was to find a reason to draw from life in the age where the camera phone can capture everything, and to place myself in a situation where it may be uncomfortable to draw. I chose places where the camera was not allowed, but no regulations were posted regarding the use of a sketchbook. These locations were: The port of entry in Nogales, Arizona, casinos, art museums and stripclubs. I was kicked out of the first three places immediately The port of entry in Nogales wanted nothing of me drawing there if I wasn’t passing, and everything I said “ is there a spot around where I can get a 360 degree view?” sounded suspicious. Kicked out. The same for both the casinos and the art museums. The idea was to draw in a place that did not passively react to my being there. 

The strip clubs however, met with varied reactions... but none of them were passive. Most of them I was able to sit down in a corner and draw un-noticed, but the environment was heightened and intense every time. There is nothing real about these spaces. Everything from the environments lighting, to the dancers themselves is controlled to create a simulacrum catering to male fantasy. The subject I address in my other life drawings, paradoxes of communication are amplified in these places. The men I drew did not have to worry about conversations going awry, or talking about the stresses of every day life to the women sitting across from them half-naked. Of course, this is because money is on the table. So the communication feels right and is artificial at the same time.

I was able to fill a book in a week, albeit nervously. But it was and still is a book that is difficult to show, despite all the great stories that come along with it, like the one about the stripper that drew a portrait of me, in my own book, or the guy who wanted to buy a page because I just drew his girlfriend on stage. Those are stories for another time. I’m talking about this because that Picasso quote, the one about drawing as a voyeuristic act, especially when drawing others from life rings true. Drawing there in that location, in that time and space, however how uncomfortable seems right. I am still not sure how to incorporate the drawings into paintings and prints. What I admire about Dasha is I feel like she has found the key to doing this. 

Dasha’s  drawings, paintings and prints however retain a fantastical mystery that I long to incorporate into my work. Her colors are saturated and electric, her line even feels like an electrically charged bolt shooting across the canvas. 

The Picasso quote, that “painting is an act of participation and drawing is an act of voyeurism”, is a conceptual one and not a technical one. To me it says that line is, at least used in the way that I do, possesses both naturalistic and journalistic qualities. The naturalism is there in that I am recording what I see, but the reasoning, the desire to be a part of it... a participant is journalistic. Indeed that when I do flip through my sketchbooks, and see pages and pages of groups of people in a bar, I remember photographically the faces, the conversations they had, no matter how trivial, the memories and thoughts running through my head at the time, and always, always that I wish that I was a part of that conversation.

Link to Dasha Shishkin interview: http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/34151/interview-dasha-shishkin/