At the Riflemaker Gallery in London, Graham Fink sits behind a computer staring intently at a blank computer screen. Out of nowhere, lines start to emerge, slowly taking on the characteristics of disturbing and broken portraits of faces. This is Drawing with my Eyes, Fink's new exhibition, where visitors can witness the artist using neither his hand nor any other instrument but his eyes to create his striking line contour images.
Like James Powderly's EyeWriter, Fink's process involves custom eye-tracking software to transform his gaze into a medium. The challenge? “I have to trust on my subconscious completely,” Fink admits The Creators Project. In the midst of his weeklong live drawing performance, we asked him about his exciting art form, and he explained to us what it’s like to draw with nothing but your own baby blues.
The Creators Project: How did you come up with the idea for Drawing with my Eyes?
Graham Fink: As a child, I was always preoccupied with faces, these images you see with your mind’s eye. I would see them in clouds, rocks, fires and cracks in the walls and concrete. If you think about it, faces must be the things that we look at more than anything in this world. I was wondering if it would be possible to put them down on paper or canvas in a completely new and interesting way. I met up with some research companies who specialize in using eye tracking for advertisements, gauging if they look at the headline first or body copy or the image,etc. They would do this by tracking the line of the eye movement and then visualize it on the screen, so you could see these direct images emerge from the way people looked at something. I then got the idea that you could use this technology to create images, and ultimately, that you could draw with your own eyes.
How does the setup work?
At the gallery I use an eye-tracker and custom software I developed together with a Swedish company called Tobii Technology. The eye-tracking shines infrared light straight into my eyes, recording the reflections with algorithms to translate the eye movements to lines on the screen. The software is designed to have different types of sensitivity, because obviously your eyes are very sensitive and it’s quiet hard to keep your eyes in one particular spot over time. I basically draw the lines in my mind and see what develops on screen. Sooner or later a face will appear. You have to really trust your unconscious that the image will materialize.
How long does it take to make one?
It varies. Some are fairly quick, between 15 to 20 minutes, others can take up to an hour. But even with the short ones it’s pretty intense. I have to stay absolutely focused on the drawing for a long period of time. Once your eye is on the canvas, it will track it with a line wherever it goes. You can’t undo anything. It’s funny because in the gallery people would walk in or say hello, and you’re immediate reaction is to look up and then the line would just fly off the screen. You can see that some of the drawings have those little mistakes in them when my concentration got interrupted. But I actually kind of like them because they show a bit of the process behind the drawings. When you look at the images, they have their own aesthetic. The line is sort of low-res and breaks up at times. It’s kind of like digital charcoal in a way.
Are there any unforeseen or interesting aspects about this kind of setup?
What’s interesting is that, obviously you look at many faces throughout the day, and I noticed that the images I create change according to what I’ve seen. They come directly from the subconscious. Normally art is made with your hands, using a pencil or a paintbrush, which can be something that gets in the way of the creating the image you have in your mind. I wanted it to be purer: to go directly from the subconscious, straight from the eyes and onto the canvas.
Making art without ever touching it.
Exactly. The fact that you can make something without ever touching it is really interesting. When the drawings are finished I ask my assistant to print them out and I made a stamp with my signature on it and my assistant stamps the work, so that’s my signing. I like the idea of having made these things without ever actually touching them.
You can watch Graham Fink make his eyedrawings live until Monday 16th of March in The Riflemaker Gallery in London. The exhibition will run until March 21, 2015. Click here for more information.