Drawings in Flight

Desire paths in Dryden Goodwin’s Flight

‘Only connect!… Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted… Live in fragments no longer.’ E.M. Forster Howards End

For nearly fifteen years, via film, video, drawing, photography and installation, Dryden Goodwin has investigated the implications of sustained looking in a series of works that have, with great beauty and formal poise, teased out the relationships between sight and place and the gaze and its territories.

Goodwin’s work takes the act of watching as an almost musical motif to be re-scored for different surroundings, including the transit zones of airports, underground systems and motorway service stations. These spaces, however brutal their dimensions, become the sites of significant, albeit fleeting, intimacies, caught by his camera as it calmly investigates the surrounding topography.

Flight animate! commission © Dryden Goodwin 2005

Flight, both as a single screen film and a gallery environment, consolidates Goodwin’s established concerns and leads them in intriguing new directions. Whether in its formal pairing of the moving and drawn image - both animated and still - or in its desire to move beyond the constraints of the urban, it suggests that Goodwin is, like the work’s anonymous protagonist, eager to re-imagine the possibilities of both his environment and, by extension, his practice.

Initially, through multiple self-portraits then a departure from the city, Goodwin delivers a surveillance of brightness falling, social isolation made luminous by its literal framing against the night. Remaining physically distant, he proceeds to extend the camera as a ghost hand by touching with animated ink those he watches. He traces their profiles and skin; a potent, coded gesture of solidarity with strangers, fellow nighthawks of the soul as much as the hour.

From a drawing sequence in Flight animate! commission © Dryden Goodwin 2005

The city the protagonist leaves in Flight feels like the last city on earth and his departure is an escape from both its order and disorder. The journey is from a page with marks towards one with an unsullied surface that offers pristine possibilities. Goodwin does not posit drawing and film-making as mutually exclusive practices, with a clear delineation between their fixed and mobile qualities. Rather, both media serve primarily as indices of process, of the gathering of experience rather than any fixed arrival. It’s as if they have agreed, in advance, that they will divide between them his enquiries into space and time.

The search then is for a space in which form and content can merge into a shared present tense, a moment (a fragment of both the map and the clock) where the means serve the full awareness of being, that is the goal of the journey. It appears that Goodwin ideally wants to become motion itself and be finally subsumed in light as its sublime incarnation (a yearning to become the very fabric of the moving image…). The woods, the headland, the lift into marine air: all embody this urgency forwards; but always, as with the entire passage of the film, it is impossible to entirely leave the city, the subject of his art and his origin.

Studio shot, pen and ink on paper, Flight animate! commission © Dryden Goodwin 2005

In acknowledging this enduring presence alongside the almost genetic relationship established between media and intention, Goodwin has crafted a Möbius Strip of a work (mirrored by the patterning of the installed elements in the gallery space), a continuous path that seeks to unite all elements and intentions within Flight. The form of the journey becomes indecipherable from its explicit and implied aims. Flight’s paradoxical attempt to resolve, even briefly, the tensions apparent between form and content, while resisting resolution itself, is where the appeal and ambition of the work lies.

Gareth Evans, for Chisenhale Gallery

More details in animate! Films of Dryden Goodwin’s animate! tv commission Flight.

More details in animate! Events of the Flight exhibition at the Chisenhale, 25 January - 12 March 2006.

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