Why I cannot be told to draw a circle

by Helen Barker

I’ve just finished some research for an article I’m writing about blogs. Whilst sorting through some old notes I came across an artist I met in Dublin, at the back-end of last year. His name is Daniel Eatock, and he asked me to draw a circle. I was on the way to the airport passing through the city streets when I saw him behind a large glass window. “Come in” his hands gestured. So I did.

On the wall of the room, which was a studio-gallery space, were a series of hand drawn circles. Each one with a different characteristic, or personality.He asked me to sit down and draw a circle to put on the wall with the others. I had to draw it in a minute exactly. Sixty seconds. Easy enough, I thought, and confidently approached the desk.

You’ll notice from this circle that I reached a point of enlightenment half way through the task. For the first half of the circle my hand was shaky and over-taught. Yes, this had something to do with the angle of the wrist and the confidence of sweeping one way above another. But mostly it had to do with why I cannot be told to draw a circle.

For the first half, all I could think of was sixty seconds. And my mind, engrossed in the number, played a trick on my hand. Sixty seconds became sixty minutes and soon I could not tell the difference between a mark and a minute. One, two, three, four, five…no longer seconds but hours, until I forgot what a minute was and began to draw painfully slowly, trying to fill up the time as though it would never end. Creeping and scraping along the surface of the paper, trying to drag my ink out, thinking I was filling marks that held gaps of time ten times the amount they did. You see, in my mind I could not think of 60 as anything less than an hour. A minute? What was that?

“You need to speed up now” Daniel said. I looked down, I had only drawn three sixths of a circle, and only had a few seconds left. So the second half of my circle abandons time completely, and I rush forward at a pace, with no fear of losing time, only a desire to make lines.

This is how I want to make work for the next two or three months – with no sense of holding onto the seconds that are counted, but by thrusting forth the ink until it flows steadily, unperturbed by what may or may not be reached during the time I have. Whether or not I complete the circle.