But as a new exhibition in the Capital shows, all it takes to make a great work of art is a mark.
A Parliament of Lines is a major exhibition showcasing some of the UK’s most exciting contemporary artists, and its Edinburgh launch comes ahead of an international tour.
The sprawling show, spread over three floors, includes the work of 15 contemporary artists, all of whom use drawing as an important element in their practice.
The exhibition is built around five broad themes, each used to link the work of a number of the artists involved, including Figuration, Architecture/Landscape, Minimal Abstraction, Reproduction/Photography and Sculptural Investigation.
All of the artists have either been born in Scotland or attended art college here, and can boast a host of accolades and international exhibitions between them.
Works by Charles Avery, David Shrigley, Paul Chiappe, Layla Curtis, Callum Innes, Nathalie De Briey, Moyna Flannigan, Luca Frei, Sam Griffin, Marie Harnett, Alan Johnston, Andrew MacKenzie, Graeme Todd, Ainslie Yule and Euan Gray have been created or collected for the show.
Edinburgh City Council museums collections manager David Patterson said: “A Parliament of Lines promises to be a feast for all those who love drawing. The range of artists involved and the wealth of experience and creativity will certainly make it a must-see for lovers of contemporary art.
“The name comes from an academic paper which just used the phrase, but it’s an interesting idea to see how these artists use, in some cases, the most basic mark to make a statement and, given the election, it’s quite a timely theme.”
The work on display in A Parliament of Lines – most of which has been created specially for the show – ranges from the exquisite tiny drawings of Chiappe and Harnett to a site specific wall drawing by Johnston and a de Briey installation.
An illustrated book, including essays by Charles Esche, Murdo MacDonald and Gavin Morrison, and a busy events programme accompany the exhibition.
Artist and curator Euan Gray said: “Drawing has remained at the heart of Scottish art education since Edinburgh College of Art was formed over 250 years ago. In the 21st century, drawing has a renewed importance in the art world. The exhibition seeks to question what constitutes a drawing, at times exploring its boundary with painting, animation and photography.”
The exhibition will also include a chance to view some paintings from an extraordinary collection created to encourage art in schools.
Established in 1963, under the direction of artist Jack Firth, the collection includes works by artists such as Elizabeth Blackadder, Barbara Rae and William Littlejohn.
Having been in storage for some years, the collection was transferred into the care of the city’s museums, and a programme of cleaning, re-mounting and re- framing was started. This is the first occasion that a selection of works from the collection will be back on public display.
• A Parliament of Lines will be on show at the City Art Centre, Market Street, from today until July 8. Admission is free.