Thursday, 30 June 2016

Julie Mehretu and Process

Julie Mehretu's "Black City" painting. (2007)
I recently watched a video from 2014 of Tim Marlow (Director of Artist Programmes at the Royal Academy) in conversation with the artist Julie Mehretu and they discuss, amongst other things, process on a number of levels. I found this interesting in terms of how I approach the construction of my paintings.
Mehretu: "There's a formal use of space, and negotiation of this enveloping space, that happens with the larger paintings where there are various centers and a de-centered type of space that takes place but I think that we look at paintings with a certain understanding of the center and that it has a different type of power in a way. There are certain paintings that play with this in the language."

For me she is saying here that she is disengaging with the tradition visual language of a painting and trying to play with the expectation of the viewer. The layers she and her assistants apply to the work are complex and confused although rhythmical, or inspired, even traced from technical drawings or architectural studies. There is no one place to look towards but instead a mass of information you can try and absorb through an intense process of observation.

Mehretu: "In the previous paintings the architectural information provided this social metaphoric around the forms of architecture that were included for a specific place or taken from historic plans that all had very specific ideas. The more recent paintings... ...are so layered that you couldn't decipher what was what, you could only see these parts and the drawing completely decimated the architectural drawing in a way or shifted it into something else where these other forms could emerge. The new work is really being made from these other forms that come through from those parts. It's like another language coming out from these forms, or the most haunting forms."

Through the original process that she used to create her paintings, that intensified as the layers built in her complex paintings, she found a new language. A series of patterns that could not exist without the original factual source material. The architectural and historical plans that she uses as a basis are morphed through the process and she ends up with something new and yet an evolution of her process, a visual language for her paintings.

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