Through the eyes of my grandfather
He had strong, ‘googly’ eyes: they could penetrate anything. Even my mom told me that she was scared of his eyes. They did not shake, rarely blinked, and showed no fear. He was gazing at white ceiling until he fell asleep, holding my grandmother’s hand so tight.
On deciding to participate in this project, I was excited but confused: unsure how to approach the subject. I personally felt the need to wear somebody else’s lenses to perform, and that ‘somebody’ had to be personal for the drawings to come alive. I wore my grandfather’s eyes and the imagination started to blossom. My grandfather had dementia towards the end of his life. He became one of the residents of the care home in my mind.
First, I choreographed a brief story of his morning in my head. The story is a continuous flow of his mind from waking up. Through trial and error, I realised that the drawings were most successful when this flow was expressed as a continuous single line, executed without lifting the pen until the drawing was complete. He woke up and slowly started recognising the spaces and objects surrounding him. He is the main subject in the room: the line began in his head; then followed his views, triggering memories and imaginations before returning to his head. The cycles of his mind were repeated continuously, but the boundary between his vision and imagination became blurred as the lines were overlaid. My initial strict choreography also began to lose control: my grandfather’s imagination went beyond my expectations, moving freely through space. I was getting lost in my own drawing.
Drawing horizon to corridor
When facing a blank canvas, I have a ritual to break my own fear of diving into the nothingness. It might be comparable to that of a rugby player before a penalty kick, or a musician before walking onstage to perform. Drawing a single horizontal line on a paper switches on my mode of production. (Ideally with a particular ruler: a thin, transparent plastic one marked in pink with 5mm grids, bought from Tokyu Hands).
On this project in particular, the act of drawing is also a performance. We, as architects, have learned to draw to communicate our intention, and a need for clarity often demands the most straightforward form of expression. Too self-indulgent a drawing cannot hold an architectural space.
In this case, for the project to have integrity, the choreography of each area was critical. We needed to play between disciplined and freeform expression, which was not easy, but it was joyful. My intention in using the ruler to construct the corridor was to give a long spine to the whole installation, by applying a legible and contrasting geometry within the pool of fluid hands and lines. The corridor was imagined as impersonal, repetitive, and endlessly long, almost like the ruler itself.
Drawing with the team of draftsmen day and night, I developed almost an addiction to drawing. I had a strong desire for the process not to end. It felt like eating good food, or listening to beautiful music. When the act of drawing became part of my life, satisfaction and pleasure filled my head: now I am hungry again.
by Michiko Sumi