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alan storey - drawing machines
  running until November 7, 2009.
  Please also see our new page for editions available from this artist (click here)

Alan Storey was born in British Columbia, Canada in 1960. He received his BFA from the University of Victoria in 1982 and has since exhibited all over North America and Europe. Both in the public and contemporary art spheres, Storey has received numerous commissons for his sculptural works. As mediated by both the act of perception and the architecture of environment, Storey's work deeply relates to human behavior and it's interaction with the environment. In fact - he is best known for his remarkable public sculptures which interact with architecture and public space. One of the best known is the sculpture which dominates the lower levels of the HSBC bank in Vancouver - a gargantuan pendulum whose movement is activated by the movement of air through the buildings air circulation system. The more you explore his work - the more you realize precisely how integral this is to the understanding of his work.

For the last 20 years Storey has developed a series of 'drawing machines;'  these are devices that record traces of human activity in a specific environment. In 'Device for Drawing the Movements of a Ballerina,' the drawing machine traces out the dancer's movements across the stage over several evenings of performance. While transcribing the trajectory of the ballerina upon paper, the machine distills and extracts the physicality of the performance through its reduction to the simplicity of lines. Similarly Storey's 'Handle with Care' records movements within a volatile enviroment. A shipping container with six hinged sides and a gessoed interior, 'Handle with Care' contains a moveable carriage holding a specially designed pen used by NASA for extraterrestiral excursions. Within the context of a moving vehicle, the box itself becomes a passive drawing machine. The vibrations, acceleration and braking of the storage vehicle (a transport truck) become the gestural source for the completed piece.

In his own words:

"Part of the philosophy in my approach is that a work of art in the public realm should intrigue and engage a passerby into an exploratory investigation of the content and its relationship to the surrounding site."

Click here to purchase catalog: "Alan Storey: Sculptures 1982-1992"or other books.
Alan Storey, 'Broken Column' , 1987 - Stainless Steel Pendulum at HSBC Alan Storey, 'Password', 1994.

Art for the Public:  Alan has been given a number of significant commissions overt the years, by industry and the government to provide public art for the citizens of various cities. Above are two in Vancouver. The first piece, to the left, Broken Column, is detailed at the bottom of this page. Essentially mimicking one of the columns in the HSBC Bank Building, except that it is in fact, a pendulum, powered by the air circulation system of the building. The work to the right , Password, is installed in the exhaust outlet for the ventilation system of an underground parking garage. It is a clever word play critical of the role of cars in the city and aspects of urban planning. This amateur video was taken at a time when one of the rotating pivots for the letters required maintenance.


The Ghost in the Machine

One of the aspects of this work, and the 'drawing machine' works collectively, that is deeply interesting and rewarding is the 'character' provided by the 'hand' of the machine as a result of the of it's normal operation. And indeed there is much room for variation and possibility to happen within the work. By creating a machine that allows for chance as a normal operating parameter - a fascinating aspect, or 'ghost' is built into the machine itself. While John Cage, in his experiments with chance, and the I-Ching used as a guiding principle, was able to captivate the imagination of many. These works take the idea a few steps further, practically guaranteeing the impossibility of repetition and duplication of previous 'works'.

see also: review in Nepotism Magazine

Handle with Care

alan storey - handle with carealan storey - handle with care

lithograph- handle with care - alan storey

at left: Alan Storey: Handle with Care,1991.

Ostensibly a shipping crate - except when folded out onto it's integral six hinged interior sides it is revealed to be a canvas and drawing substrate for a specially prepared pen carriage which translates the movements of the container, experienced on the journey to the exhibition space onto the 'canvas'.

The act of folding out the panels flat for mounting on the wall adds a layer of semantic complexity to the work that it doesn't have in 'container' format. This is inherent to any object which, through it's design has inherited a double life. As an art-object it asks the same question that the Conceptual Art of the 1970s asks - only in this case, perhaps a little bit more pointedly - since the traditional role of 'marking a canvas' has been taken over by a passive device.

In cleverly replacing the traditional physical role of the artist with a 'passive robotic device', Storey throws the conceptual role of the artist into sharper relief. However - the results are not less fascinating than what we'd have gotten from a Franz Kline in the same crate with a paintbrush. Perhaps they are far more interesting. The schema of Handle with Care as a device, or a machine for drawing, is not simply a faux- three dimensional record of acceleration in in two dimensions... but rather an 'artificial intelligence' of sorts - whose design provides for a different outcome each time it's executed.

Thus, the design of Storey's systems are algorithmic in nature. That is to say, his drawing machines, in the manner of  the execution of a computer program, is a behavioral script of sorts- a syllogism made physical. The outcome - in this case, the representation of an impossibly tangled line of indeterminate lengh is different in every circumstance (Storey has built several of these - each one for a different exhibition) whose means of creation is no less fascinating for having been drawn by the simplest of mechanisms than had it been at the hand of the artist directly.








at left: Alan Storey: Handle with Care, Lithograph, Montréal to Vancouver (Trans-Canada Higway,) 1994.

Device for Drawing the Movements of a Ballerina

alan storey - device for drawing the movements of a ballerina - queen elizabeth theatre vancouver

left: "Alan Storey: Device for Drawing the Movements of a Ballerina", Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver Canada, 2008.

All images of this work are copyright © Ashley Judge, 2008.

alan storey - device for drawing the movements of a ballerina - line tracing detail left: Alan Storey: "Device for Drawing the Movements of a Ballerina", detail of drawing tracing out the stage movements of the dancer on consecutive evenings. The pen uses a different color for each successive performance.

hans haacke - condensaton cubewalter de maria - lightning fieldjames turrell - juke green

left to right:

Hans Haacke: Condensation Cube, 1963.

Walter De Maria, Lightning Field , 1975.

James Turrell, Juke Green, 1968.


The three works of 'contemporary art' above typify artwork made in a similar vein; Storey is in good company - the works illustrated here share a strong common thread with Storey's work - that they are exist in order to highlight properties of one or another natural phenomenon. at the expense of the objecthood of the work itself. Without each of the corresponding phenomena, the work would be meaningless. Here we are referring to the mysteries of water vapor, the brutal delicacy of lightning, the ethereality of light, respectively. Such work can only be the product of an awe and a profound respect for natural phenomena.

Climatic Drawing Machine
alan storey - climatic drawing machinealan storey - climatic drawing machine
Left: Alan Storey: Climatic Drawing Machine, 1991. The POWER PLANT, Toronto.

at left: model of climatic drawing machine and resulting drawing on rear wall installed in gallery

at right: detail of 'recording paper ' roll. The direction of the wind rotates the paper recording drum via the weather vane on the roof of the building. The drum is moved up and down according to the velocity of the wind.

alan storey - climatic drawing machine detailclick on image to see available editions for purchase in store                                                   credit: C4 Contemporary Art
at left: Climatic Machine Drawing. The paper covered receiving drum of the Drawing Machine is oriented to the prevailing wind via the weather vane on top of the building. The wind speed itself moves the drum up or down and determines the vertical position of the pen relative to the drum. Hence the 'activity' in the lower left correspond to a south/westerly wind gusting at low speeds and the activity on the upper right, a north easterly storm.

alan storey - draw - installation - or gallery alan storey - draw - installation alan storey - draw - installation alan storey - draw - installation at mercer union in toronto

Alan Storey: DRAW, 1984. Or Gallery Vancouver and Mercer Union,  Toronto, 1986. Overall view of installed piece. This piece is built on the principle of an articulated arm - though made of heavy timber. 600lb. lead counter-weights are bolted to the end of the swingarm to give you an idea of the massive scale of this work.


This is Storey's first ever 'drawing machine'.  The motorized assembly rotates at low speed, the articulated arm keeping the inked bicycle wheel in constant contact with the gallery walls.  The 'drawing machine' marks the wall with every rotation at a pseudo-random height deter-mined by a second motorized movement in the arm.


The Broken Column, 1987
Alan Storey, Broken Column, 1987 - Stainless Steel Pendulum at HSBC Alan Storey, SCALE MODEL STUDY forBroken Column, 1987 -
Located in Vancouver, Canada - HSBC Bank commissioned artist Alan Storey to create this uniquely inventive pendulum, mimicking one of the bank's internal columns, and using a small surplus of the building's air circulation system to power it's movements. The video at right is shot from a miniature scale study model of the space. While this is not of the class of sculptures from the artist considered a 'Drawing Machine' - it is still one of his best known and most recognizable public artworks.


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