Backwards Drawings: pages 18 and 19 and plate 13 from Russian Icons (by David Talbot Rice) 2012

An ink drawing of a text that considers how Eastern Iconography is read, and a reversed watercolour image of the accompanying illustration.  


'….in (Russian) iconography, a distant and purely Eastern system of arrangement is followed, where scenes are built up from right to left, not from left to right. In the Annunciation, for instance, the angel approaches from the right side and not from the left, as it does in Western and in true Byzantine art. In the West, in fact, scenes move from left to right, like the writing; in East they move from right to left, as does the Arabic script…'

'…In order to appreciate an Eastern painting to the full, we should therefore try to look at it from right to left, rather than from left to right, as we naturally tend to do even if we do not realise it'.



We tend to translate images instinctively, understanding them visually rather than verbally, generating meaning in a way that makes sense to us. It is interesting to consider text in the same way: ingesting it visually, not literarily. Through the 'translation' of a section of printed text into a reversed ink drawing, it is presented as image, therefore when it is 'read' it is processed in a very different way. Simultaneously, we recognise that the drawing is language and, if we did hold the key, we could read what was in front of us as the writer had intended.