DisegnoVeronika Wenger Lecture at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts 2023
Veronika Wenger
Lecture at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, December 18, 2023

The divine nature […] that repeats all visible works
– Leonardo da Vinci

The line as a repetition of nature becomes an intermediate area in which it becomes nature itself through the repetition of nature, before it becomes decoration, drawing, symbol or language.

sottosopraVeronika Wenger 2022 115 x 100 cm, marker, tape, pencil on paper
Veronika Wenger 2022
115 x 100 cm, marker, tape, pencil on paper

Using this bowl as an example, I can see the repetition of nature, the person who shaped this bowl and drew the line. She repeated nature, much like hands form a bowl to drink from, and I see the material, the earth and the color repeating the forms of nature. I see the unity of the person, the bowl and the line as a performative act that creates the bowl with this line as a repetition of nature and thus becomes a unity. This is lost the more the line becomes drawing, decoration, sign or narration.

Second half of 12th c.Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens
Second half of 12th c.
Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

The line makes everything seen visible, the outlines of the bodies, the spaces in between, the „connecting of distinctions” (Bernhard Lypp). What the line makes visible as a line, painting makes visible by covering it with paint.

ObachtVeronika Wenger 2021 160 x 150 cm, marker, acrylic, pencil on paper
Veronika Wenger 2021
160 x 150 cm, marker, acrylic, pencil on paper

It is difficult for me to keep my lines on the outside, on the form and direction given by an apple, for example, or any object, or even space, landscape, etc. Since I gave in to the lines, to free them from the tensions, the direction, the form, they jump around on the page…

In painting, color has always been more important to me than space or object. Perhaps I have now also arrived at the material in drawing.

petit déjeunerVeronika Wenger 2021 160 x 150 cm, marker, tape, pencil on paper
petit déjeuner
Veronika Wenger 2021
160 x 150 cm, marker, tape, pencil on paper
What does Disegno mean?

Since painting by necessity gave birth to perspective (perché l pittore è quello, che per necessità della su arte ha partorito essa prospettiva, § 17; 1500/05), to drawing in general, painting is a central science (“… for the divinity of the science of painting contemplates both human and divine works, which are delimited by their surfaces, i.e. the outlines of bodies …”, § 23; ca.1492 ); it is this also for the sculptor, the architect, the decorator, the goldsmith, for weavers and embroiderers; it has invented letters to express itself in different languages, numerals for arithmetic, figures for geometry; it teaches perspective, astronomers, cosmographers, craftsmen and engineers (§§ 23: ca.1492; 17: 1500/05; 25, 28: ca.1500).
– Leonardo da Vinci

Is the line/color divine when the drawer/painter turns around and looks at ideality?

The line/color is what the drawer/painter chooses by creating an order or a frame?

Does the line/color make an ideal appear? Or is the line/color an imitation, an artificial construct or decoration?

Disegno is:
Line, stroke – drawing.
Ornament – decoration.
Jewelry – symbol.
Writing – language.
Color – painting.
In all of this the line / color remains present
Disegno 1: Observation 1st order
Simple observation of nature:
Line, color as a unit of connecting of distinctions (nature)

Disegno as a line is a “connecting of distinctions” (Bernhard Lypp), a concatenation of distinctions. The connecting of distinctions can be made visible by drawing a line. The line here is the visualization of the “chaotic” world. The line corresponds to the visualization of a person’s seeing/perceiving. What is seen / perceived is shown in a drawn line. The line is the medium of the disegno, which marks – does not mark. The line is part of “nature”/“reality”/“world”, “cosmos”.

Tag und Nacht Veronika Wenger 2021 digital drawing, Full HD
Tag und Nacht
Veronika Wenger 2021
Digital drawing, Full HD

Disegno as color is a “connecting of distinctions” through the application of color. Distinctions can only be made visible by concealing them, by concatenating surfaces.

CherubVeronika Wenger 2023 120 x 100 cm, spray, marker, pencil, tape on paper
Veronika Wenger 2023
120 x 100 cm, spray, marker, pencil, tape on paper

Line and color approach or merge with each other. By drawing the line and “applying color through movement” (Oleksiy Koval), distinctions become visible, “marked – unmarked” (Spencer Brown).

Disegno as ornament is a repeating line/color and ordering factor.

Ornament is order. The origin of ornament is disegno as line/color, infinite line and infinite color.

Color becomes ornament by covering/filling the spaces in between. The connecting of colors divided into distinctions makes the ornament visible.

Ornament corresponds to observation/systematization.

Disegno here is not the imitation of nature, but nature as form, ordered / seen as repetition: as ornament that makes the cosmos visible through line or color.

Disegno as an ornamental connection of distinctions. “The ornamental line is part of nature”. (Niklas Luhmann)

Does the ornament form a frame for the exclusion, e.g. for the white sheet or canvas?

13Oleksiy Koval, 2019 140 x 130 cm, ink on synthetic textile
Oleksiy Koval, 2019
140 x 130 cm, ink on synthetic textile

If one takes the theory of the combination of forms as a starting point, then it is obvious to assume in conditions where there is no corresponding concept, let alone an autonomous art system, that the origin of art lies in ornament. One could venture a comparison: what the evolution of language meant for the evolution of society is the evolution of the ornamental for the evolution of the art system; in both cases, long-lasting preparatory work with ultimately eruptive consequences once communication is so secure in itself that boundaries become recognizable. But initially it is not the difference between thing and ornament that is emphasized, but precisely the unity, the emphasis on meaning. “Cosmos” in the Greek understanding is
both order and decoration.
– Luhmann, “Art as a Social System”

Disegno as jewelry can be a cut-out ornament or an ornament cast in a form, which can be a line, symbol, sign or color. If the ornament is detached from the connecting of distinctions and artificially repeated, it becomes decoration. The ornament is transferred to the world of signs, writing and symbols.

Disegno as jewelry can be a cut-out ornament or an ornament cast in a form, which can be a line, symbol, sign or color. If the ornament is detached from the connecting of distinctions and artificially repeated, it becomes decoration. The ornament is transferred to the world of signs, writing and symbols.

Disegno 2: 2nd order observation
The observation that observes itself:
Drawing, Painting, Drawing a distinction, Making decisions, marked / unmarked

Disegno as drawing and painting.

Drawing and painting create a surface that conceals or covers “nature” in order to allow it to emerge anew through reason and a certain selection of distinctions, which becomes communication about drawing/painting through its own language, a system of signs. Disegno in the sense of making decisions, marked / unmarked. Drawing is the performative stroke, painting the performative application of color or the representation of appearance or idea.

On the surface, the disegno can appear as color or line, in the sense of ornament and the eye. Or as an eruption of line or color as drawing, painting, image, imitation, which replaces what is seen through the imagination of a person. The drawing, painting becomes a projection surface and interruption of the ornament. The surface itself becomes a distinction in the unity of the ornament / cosmos and is absorbed into the surrounding frame (nature).

In this, in the term drawing, the outline, the disegno, the tradition of the ornamental is continued.
– Niklas Luhmann

Is the performative stroke, the performative application of color, the infinite line, the infinite color, the disegno of the depictive perception of the eye?

PandoraVeronika Wenger 2020 120 x 150 cm, acrylic, marker, pencil on paper
Veronika Wenger 2020
120 x 150 cm, acrylic, marker, pencil on paper

Painting and drawing converge or merge through the use of line and color. The tracing and application of color of distinctions through the movement of drawing the line and applying the color become Disegno 2.

As part of the whole, the surface / canvas again becomes part of the ornament.

The ornament forms the frame for the section of the drawing or painting.

Victory Boogie Woogie Piet Mondriaan, 1942 - 1944
Victory Boogie Woogie
Piet Mondrian, 1942 – 1944

Mondrian paints distinctions as surface on surface and thereby makes the ornament, the world, visible. “Victory Boogie Woogie” is Disegno (nature, cosmos, eye), a unity of painting and ornament, in the sense of “cosmos”. The search for the “right color on color” as an ordering ornament, as a necessity rooted in the cosmos.

Mont Sainte-VictoirePaul Cézanne c.1906
Mont Sainte-Victoire
Paul Cézanne c.1906

Cézanne creates the disegno (nature, cosmos, eye) through the sequence of color, chain of distinctions through color. He arranges the nature he sees through color, color on color, applying color instead of drawing a line. It becomes ornament, reality through color.

Otto, Sei, Tre, Uno, DueOleksiy Koval, 2023 297 x 210 mm, ink on paper
Otto, Sei, Tre, Uno, Due
Oleksiy Koval, 2023
297 x 210 mm, ink on paper

Oleksiy Koval arrives at disegno (nature, cosmos, eye) by recognizing the system. The application of color to the surface, composition, numbers, rhythm and movement becomes the order of things, an ornament.

Disegno 3: 3rd order observation
Observation translates and transports into systems as
design, image, writing, language, picture, narration
Il Guercino: Allegorie des Disegno und der Malerei, um 1640; Getty Center
Allegory of Disegno and Painting
Il Guercino, 1640; Getty Center

Drawing is also the design, realization of the imagined world or the imitation of the visible or the creation of an artificial world. Drawing thus corresponds to communication.

Here begins the imitation of nature, the image of nature, the representation of appearance instead of form and color, writing in pictures, the beginning of the narrative. Communication, pictures, storytelling, detach themselves from the context of the ornament to their own language and writing.

Disegno as line and drawing includes

1. the unity of connecting of distinctions (as nature, as cosmos)

2. drawing a distinction, marked/non marked, drawing

3. language, writing, image

For one drinkVeronika Wenger 2020 Digital drawing, Central Station Munich 2021
For one drink
Veronika Wenger 2020
Digital drawing, Central Station Munich 2021

The more the line is not abstract, even becomes a stroke, the more the curtain is pulled away and reveals a view of reality. It makes the communication between line and stroke visible and opens the viewer’s eyes to the world.

Black LineVeronika Wenger 2017 Istanbul Art Fair Tüyap
Black Line
Veronika Wenger 2017
Istanbul Art Fair Tüyap

The more depictive a line is, becoming a drawing, the more artificially and artistic it becomes. It places a veil over reality through which the viewer sees the world.

Veronika Wenger
Munich, December 8, 2023

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The line inside the drawing

The first line I encountered was the physical ‘strand’. Through the strand of sewing thread I realized what the meaning of a line is: ‘gathering the strand’, ‘strand – straight’. A surface, built from single lines, can be defined by ‘gathering the strand’, ( ‘strand – straight’ in different sizes and numbers of surfaces).It appears as a wonderful line. This treatment of line is used in tailoring to get a really straight line.


Before I studied art, I learnt tailoring, Haute – Couture tailoring. During this form of education you are required to handle both sewing and drawing, including drawing with scissors to form ‘cut outs’, drawing as design and figure drawing. I saw the similarities between drawing and sewing. You can do the same with a needle and textile strand as with paper and pencil. You gradually develop understanding in both disciplines of what a line can be.

The line both separates and unites, creating two surfaces in sharp contact. A line creates an edge, a seam, a cut, a format. You are made conscious of how material can be transformed and how idea, imagination and time and are created and revealed by the line. The line reveals the expression, the form and the ‘ductus’ of the actor. The ‘performance’ of tailoring and drawing has to be confident to lead the line. When your hand is called “the golden hand“ by your master craftswoman, then you’ve got the right ductus. The difference is in the final material form, in one case it is clothing and in the other it is drawing.


I chose the line for drawing and started with the pencil. I used the pencil to visually configure reality, or more precisely configure perceived reality. I was drawing. The line was the medium of the drawing, an instrument for visualizing, forming the essential substance of the drawing. I was struggling with the distinctive nature of the material and the attempt to get the most meaningful outcome. I was at the mercy of the pencil!


To free my treatment of line I tried different drawing techniques. One of them was lithography. The technical demands of lithography helped to create a distance and interrupt the familiarity of the drawing process. The challenge of this technique created a new and liberating sense of materiality, color, surface, line and form. Though the flow of the line was as before, the texture of the pencil mark was now replaced by the transforming texture of the crayon in lithography.


A later development was a deeper need to break with the dependence on drawing and to extend into other media and processes. I explored video, film, photography, performance, painting and working collaboratively with other artists. I undertook an increasing depth of research in these different media, expanding the process of drawing into other ways of configuring the perception of reality. I subsequently extended my understanding and treatment of drawing processes through the exploration of other possibilities for visualising space, color, time, movement and expanded the narrative possibilities of drawing. Film and video gradually became the most effective way to let the line move from A to B, to fuse the different realities and to visualize time.


The film “summer“2007 most effectively articulates my expanding relationship with these different media and their close connection with my drawing process. The whole story of the film I had developed was now in connection with my previous drawing practice, combining drawing processes with different media and perceptions of reality. They were all ‘actors’, appearing as drawn persona, effectively performing as ‘real’ actors as in a movie, interacting and questioning what is real, what is drawing, what is film, what is photography; in essence questioning the complex relationship between the symbolic language of film and documentary footage of reality. At this time, through using drawing, video, photography and sound, I wanted to search out the possibilities of the interior imagination, through engaging in different approaches to perception and creative performance.


The persistent working with series of drawings, with film and photography, through repetition and connection with subtle variations distilled to repeating cycles, to interconnected references between works, created a rhythm and subtle variations of context and readings. In the deep desire to organize this increasing flux I was able to focus this process through the unconscious emergence of an archetypal figure; a mostly drawn persona who connected all these works. She weaves her subconscious and conscious presence through all the works and effectively forms a unifying presence.




This was a perfect unconscious, then conscious solution, to take me back to the power of line through drawing. This was a new encounter. I met again and recognized the visual power of ‘rhythm’. This rhythm in my practice brought me to the group of ‘Rhythm Section’. Rhythm Section is a group of artists, who search for rhythm in fine art. This development provoked in me a desire to engage in a new enquiry to consider what rhythm is; rhythm in fine art, film and rhythm in general.


For a long time I was interested in the work of William Forsythe, the American dancer and choreographer who creatively engaged with the grammar, language and internal logic of dance. He became a personal inspiration for me, instigating a new creative project with a focus on rhythm. My interest in William Forsythe in turn connected me to Hedda Gabler, the protagonist of Ibsen, (who danced herself to exhaustion). Hedda Gabler became the inspiration for a film project I conceived in 2009.


Hedda Gabler gave me new inspiration. Access to her text, her dialog and letters provoked in me a deeper connection with language, relationship and understanding of our surrounding world….without straining to significance, without using overt narrative, but subtlely serving as a vehicle for understanding of language, letters and the agreed structure and order of effective communication. This experience formed a new understanding and the basis for a revitalized and informed re-engagement with the drawing process.

The choreographer, William Forsythe, fascinated me with his historical references, with his relationship to ballet as structure and choreography as ‘embodied’ knowledge, particularly in his understanding and creative exploration of the grammar and language of physical movement in dance. In collaboration with the artists of Rhythm Section I absorbed an understanding of the different forms of rhythm, and after this long journey I came back to drawing; drawing, which articulates both perception and description through line, expressing thought content, form, composition, rhythm and color.


Hedda Gabler gave me the connection to text, Forsythe the connection to dance and Rhythm Section the rhythm the reconnection to drawing and the creative expressive use of line.


In 2015 Karin Wimmer wrote about my work in the catalog ‘Rhythm Method Volume II’ Stating in the publication ‘The inner necessity’, “Wenger uses writing, shapes and lines to convey a compositional statement about the image. She believes that these three components strike a balance between disorganization and form.”

Filmstill, Zack Snyder, “Dawn of the Dead”, 2004

The study of both film and film analysis brought me to another important development in my work, to the cult of ‘Zombies’. My work ‘Help alive inside’ forms a creative reference to the cultural phenomenon of Zombies. ‘Help alive inside’ acts here as a kind of codex. This work brings to the visual surface a mental (psychic) and psychological layer. This unconscious material is primarily what my drawings seek to convey to the viewer. My drawings were subsequently often referred to as ‘psychic abstractions’.

These visual and psychological references reflect on my intense and sometimes impulsive need for expression of compelling unconscious material which underlies the more rational analytical aspects of my creative practice. As a consequence of this necessary creative relationship between conscious and unconscious material, a process of construction and deconstruction is enacted. However, this material is always constrained and ordered in deference to compositional balance, to the order of facts, format, and the principles of coherent visual communication.

This complex conscious and unconscious relational material forms a tensile and dynamic visual manifestation of line and color. I seek to assimilate and fully express this complex exchange within the process of articulating line; through the intensive concentration and performance of selecting colour and forming the movement of the line, so that the full complexity of exchange is held within the drawing process.


‘Help alive inside’ – the salvation from inside the drawing.

Philosophically, I think that my creative practice corresponds in greater part with a ‘phenomenological’ approach; to a preoccupation with observation and the subjective/poetic nature of perception. I seek to visualize, through my drawings, my perception and comprehension of the world. I try to find a possibility by way of drawing, to find a balance; an effective transformative form for documenting the whole; a taxonomy, a chronology, chorology, a morphology.

Sometimes I need a compositional figure, a character, a person to form both a subject and as a vehicle through which I can consider personal relationships to the world; a person/persona who functions as a point of reference. This person, figure, character, will inevitably become subordinate to the internal formal logic and necessity of the drawing process. In the process of drawing, this image representation of the person will be destroyed to allow the deeper necessity of the emergent internal and formal logic of the line of the drawing to be primary driver in the composition. It is the narrative that initially causes me to draw. This cause, emanating from my interest in the writings of Hedda Gabler and the choreography of Forsythe, gives me, in a non-binding but still dependable way a means of connecting with a person, figure, character as the preliminary anchor point and focus for the direction of the drawing. As the drawing progresses this initial narrative way of drawing will be subsumed by the evolving drawing process of construction and deconstruction. From the compositional process arises an expressive articulation of line, that retains its strength from the initial source. The narrative part of the work will be submerged and subsumed within the drawing; to be precise: swallowed by the line.


The line is movement from A to B, connecting and stringing together moments, a beginning and end or endless space, time, motion, or focal point, fixing our perceived world and emotions, providing meanings. The line could be a piece of the whole or alternatively could be the whole or simply just a line by itself. The line on the surface could be part of an object or letter, could be everything or simply a line.

Drawing is composition, form, image, reproduction, emotion, abstraction, representation. The line is part of a drawing, fixed on a surface. The drawing for me is more like cutting out something from the surface, to get an outline or pattern of lines to form a sketch or final drawing. Drawing is separating and defining the form, shape and volume.

The ‘free’ line opens up the ‘inside’ of the drawing. The drawing becomes open, referencing part of the surrounding perceived reality. The line becomes its own reality. With the free lines added together as different lines, colors, directions and material, I get a conjunction on the surface, a balance in the creation of a work telling its own story. The drawing material is serving the message of the drawing. Working with lines, the material is serving itself. The material, lines, surface and composition form references through the selective application of a few lines in different colors and arrangement.


My new work for the Art-Fair in Istanbul responds to the theme ‘Utopia’ and will take the form of a line on the wall.


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