Being (back) There

Travel sketches that take one back in time

  • Julian Rennie

Abstract

During the recent Covid-19 lockdown I stumbled upon an sketchbook of my first trip overseas to the USA (in 1986). More particularly my month long stay in Manhattan, (where one didn’t need a car to get around). Within this urban island I would get going early, walk, walk and take in sights, sounds and smells which was all new to my (distant) Kiwi senses, then exhausted at the end of the day would take the subway home. Within the March 2020 lockdown viewing these sketches took me back, to the quiet times of finding a place, and looking, seeing, listening, rendering with just a Rotring pen, all the while, people going about their daily business, largely ignoring me, was it because I was so still? Or was it because they were rush rushing with their “Man-hectic” lives. Lingering longer as required for a sketch, not clicking one’s SLR camera and moving on to the next ‘image.” Manhattan a place where I too learnt to walk along a “sidewalk,” (a “footpath” to me), eating a folded slice of pizza like other “Manhattaners!” These drawings seem to me to hold unspoken memories that upon viewing afresh, rather like a smell (e.g. a perfume) can transport one back in time in an instant. The sketches remain silent, yet for me they bring back the 24/7 noise and bustle of a large urbanity. This offering will unpack these nuances, set within other writers’ armchair travel texts and attempt to position how hand sketching remains experiential and visceral in contrast to the uber-paced virtual world we now find ourselves in.

Published
2020-12-30
Section
Articles