Texts - Linda Karshan
Matthias Bärmann - august form 2002

„If someone says ‘I have a body,’ one can ask him ‘Who speaks here with this mouth?’“
(Ludwig Wittgenstein, ‘On Certainty’, § 244)

„Two feet walking“.
(Alberto Giacometti, asked about his studio by Andre Breton)

The London studio of Linda Karshan, which is some distance away from her apartment, is a large high room, well proportioned (as prescribed by Ad Reinhardt), and almost empty. The floor is dark. On the large white surfaces of the walls drawings can easily be pinned up as they are completed, so that they can be seen in context. A flat shelf in a corner has room enough for some folders of work. The freestanding drawing table is covered with graphite dust. The acoustics of the room allow the words and sentences spoken to remain in the air, light and precise, like misty breath coming from one’s mouth in clear, very cold air.

Karshan’s second studio is in the Connecticut countryside in the U.S.A. For some years now she has regularly spent the summer months there. The lakes of Connecticut: Linda Karshan has been, since childhood, an enthusiastic and unflagging swimmer. The rhythmic successive movements, stroke after stroke. The strokes of the arms and legs, synchronised with breathing in and out. With the heartbeat. Immersion in the other element to which the body entrusts itself, by which it is made weightless. Body and spirit enveloped and allowed to float, time suspended.

Linda Karshan’s drawing needs the studio as a place to be manifested on paper. But drawing always maintains its latent presence. As a rhythmic process, branching expansively and deeply rooted in her living form. A choreography of the processes of life, going from the primary processes of the body to those of consciousness and mind.

To speak or write about Linda Karshan’s drawings can only mean describing the process of their formation. But not as a process of forming something that ends up as a drawing. It means describing the drawing itself as the process of its own formation.

Even before she enters her studio Karshan begins to count, in repetitive and rhythmical sequences of varying lengths, it might be 2, 4, 8 or 16 numerical units. Or even one. The rhythm continues in the studio, marched out loud, and takes over the movements of the legs, the arms, the whole body. This rhythm with its energy is, like the artist herself, a subject of the drawing. It is powered by its own strength. Linda Karshan follows it with the pulses of her drawing, with her „marks“. Within a drawing the rhythm can speed up and slow down, can span longer or shorter periods.

From their etymology „mark“ and „marking“ signify boundary, boundary area, boundary line. Karshan works with the topography of boundaries. She does not overstep her inner boundary. As she is drawing she moves always at and with the boundary. A shifting boundary.

Linda Karshan, who is in fact left-handed, always draws with the right, her „wrong“ hand. She holds the pencil perpendicularly in her fist. The force of gravity in the vertical axis. Withdrawn from the intent of the will and an ego-routine that can only constantly reproduce itself, just like oriental calligraphers. In the pulsing of the transferred energies it can happen that the graphite pencil breaks. In its intensity Karshan’s drawing is a sculptural act, she speaks of her works as „carved out“. The strong paper she prefers resists the graphite, creates noise: sound on paper. Drawing is „to follow the sound“. Years later Karshan can recall unmistakably and with complete clarity the specific sound of a particular drawing, as well as the actual physical feeling in her body while it was in process.

The starting point for a drawing, the place where the rhythm comes into contact with the paper for the first time, is precise yet intuitive. From that point the „marks“ proceed onwards, with the irresistibility of ripples, when a stone has fallen into the still waters of a pond. There are no decisions. „I have no choice.“ („Having a choice,“ according to the American writer Don DeLillo, „is a subtle form of illness.“) The rhythmic pulses of the „marks“, synchronised with the sequences of counting, extend beyond the edges of the sheet lying on the drawing-table. For a moment they are continued on the surface of the table, with a different sound now, then return to the paper with the next sequence. Between the sequences the page is always turned, so that the actions of drawing proceed from each side in turn.

One continuum, without interruption, without restarting the process. In certain circumstances, however, there may be several successive passes, by which the structures are stabilised. The patterns that are formed from them, parallel lines or, often, orthogonal grid-like structures, are not intended but are the result. With countless minimal irregularities within the basic geometrical pattern: which fill the drawing with energy and animation. The germ of Linda Karshan’s drawing is found not in the form but in the rhythm, in the dance that takes place between the body and the sheet of paper. This derives from a circumstance that can only be described paradoxically: concentrated and self-forgetful, awake, „aware“ - „but not too much.“

Karshan’s drawing generates time, time experienced, time formed. Every „mark“ on the paper is an actual equivalent of time, the impact of a specific moment and its unique energised signature. Beginning and end are extinguished in the structures. The individual pulses form a counterpoint to the one comprehensive movement that is subsumed in a state of pure presence. In this way the exact record is realised, the „portrait“ of a specific situation at a specific time. For example, on this particular August day 2002 in the studio in Connecticut. August forms. Self-Portraits.

„A surrendering of the conscious mind, allowing the body to take over“ (Christof Koch and Francis Crick in a study of the systems of neurones independent of consciousness). A pact with the body. The body a ferry that transports itself.

The presence of the body. Many works of the early 1990s make one think of membranes, of skin. The path since then has gone deeper, has led to skeletal structures, to the spine with the ribs attached, and onward to the orthogonal grids. These, however, still clearly preserve their corporeality. The intelligence of the body, of its fundamental structural system at the level of cells. Its autopoietic function, its ability to organise itself has yet to be acquired at the level of consciousness, in the process of drawing.

For this, the decisiveness and discipline of a warrior are required. Daily practising and practice, rituals strictly observed, exercises performed as ceremonies. „Drawing my being.“ If body and mind have become instruments, awake and transparent, then the most delicate and complex movements and nuances can be defined in the simplest forms. Action dictated not by thought and concept. Action dictated by insight, spontaneous, intuitive. And for that very reason: clearly structured. Dissolution of the ego is a process that leads to personal identity, the passage through chaos emerges into a new state of order. Human or geometrical form? Order or chaos? If we look outdoors, is the frame of the window order and are the passing clouds chaos? Windowframe and clouds are unified in Linda Karshan’s drawings. That is why we can look outdoors.

By following the rhythm of counting Karshan structures her material. The eye is the „guide“. The stored memory of mankind, the body, is danced free. At the same time, the absorption in serial rhythms is a universal trance technique. Self-renouncement with the consciousness fully awake. With consciousness, but not of anything: open, precise awareness. Exact intuition. Discipline and anarchy. „To live outside the law you must be honest“ (Bob Dylan).

The lines and patterns vibrate with enormous energy. Linda Karshan’s drawings extend a balance for which the battle is endlessly renewed; in which deviation and assailability are inherent. Often the structures drawn on the sheet lean a little to the right. With only minimal differences within the confines of the series. A sailing ship is always inclined in the wind, in its pressure. So as to keep moving forward. To navigate in broad open space.