Extract from: Drawings and Distance
from Drawings and Distance: Four Letters from a correspondence between James Elkins and John Berger
I like your suggestion that drawing is a ghost subject – exactly for the reasons you give and also because, before drawing evolved into a “questioning” of something visibly there, it was a way of addressing the absent, of making the absent appear. As the act of drawing is now understood (or misunderstood) it leads us historically back to the Renaissance. Drawing, as I understand it, is however much older, indeed it is far older than any written language or architecture. It is as old as song. If the art of the Palaeolithic caves isn’t a form of drawing – what else can we call it? There was a tradition of drawing – sometimes engraving into rock surfaces, sometimes drawing in colour on them – which lasted, as far as we can guess, for about twenty thousand years – that’s to say the tradition lasted for 40 times the distance that separates us from the Renaissance. And some of those first drawings are as accomplished as anything done since, no?
What you say about drawing being the place where blindness, touch and resemblance come together is a moving description of what happened in those caves.