MAP 24 interrogates the mobilization of the graphic in contemporary art practice. Distinct from the slipperiness of the image, the graphic favours functionality. It is an interface that invites inscription, and vividness and explication are key components of its function. Within the graphic realm, language is understood not only in terms of its linguistic expressiveness, but also in terms of its materiality, weight and solidity. The antagonistic relationship between the graphic and the image, the word and its representation, is underscored in Shahryar Nashat’s MAP Commission. His presentation obfuscates the ‘QED’ nature of design, finding fissures and imaginative deviations in the partialness of detail.

Matt Keegan’s artist text, meanwhile, examines the graphic in relation to his mother’s flash cards for teaching English as a foreign language; this archive of over 400 hand-made cards foregrounds the negotiation of spoken work and forms of (mis)representation. Other profiled artist this issue seed to transpose the graphic interface: Clément Rodzielski re-inscribes magazines, posters and images with the invocation of absence and melancholy; Tom Burr riffs on the idea of decór ; while Guy de Cointet’s practice relies less on the imagistic nature of his drawings, and more on the graphic function of his objects as theatrical props.

Looking at the graphic approach permits a holistic attitude to contemporary practice. It encompasses fabrication, configuration, production—elements key both to Glasgow polymath Alasdair Gray (an artist who’s amalgamated practice is highly attuned to the graphic, in terms of his design, illustration and painting) and to the novelist BS Johnson (whose language is only one component of his absolutist approach to the architecture of the book form). The Serving Library also takes the holistic approach, using the fields of art and design as a generative publishing engine and reflective archive machine.

In a culture where the proliferation of the image points to its insufficiency as much as its abstraction, the graphic in contemporary art offers a clear distinction.