Trace and catharsis: Embodied drawing


For the past decade, my artistic research practice has explored the performative aspect of drawing. Recently, I have come to realize how the performative process can function as an experience of catharsis. By examining a selection of works from my practice, Cassils, Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta and Tracey Emin, that exemplify the act of mark making through processes of encountering intense states of the body, ‘Trace and catharsis: Embodied drawing’ explores the concept of drawing as the residue of performance. I will investigate catharsis as a performative gesture in itself – the release of internalized distress through acts of externalization and exertion. This gesture – immediate, impulsive and compulsive in nature – draws a direct relationship to Aristotle’s notions of catharsis and the bodily manifestations of anxiety that Sigmund Freud describes. Through Amelia Jones’s and Catherine de Zegher’s ideas of mark making, I will examine how traces produced by this gesture can be performative in its materiality and evocation of the artist’s body.

Research Article
Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice
Intellect Ltd

Leigh, Brooke (2022), ‘Trace and catharsis: Embodied drawing’, Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice, 7:1, pp. 79–98,
About the publication

Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice promotes and disseminates drawing research with a focus on contemporary practice and its theoretical context. This journal seeks to reestablish the materiality of drawing as a medium at a time when virtual, on-line, electronic media dominates visuality and communication. This peer-reviewed publication represents drawing as a significant discipline in its own right and in a diversity of forms: as an experimental practice, as research, as representation and/or documentation, as historical and/or theoretical exploration, as process or as performance. It explores the drawing discipline across fine art, science and engineering, media and communication, psychology, architecture, design, science and technology, textiles, fashion, social and cultural practices.