Notes from ‘Grey Area’: An introduction to Julie Mehretu
Her paintings draft narratives of urban development and their impact on an individuals experience. Her renderings of cartographic and architectural plans form the foundation for layered compositions.
Uses – flight plans, airport architecture, sports arenas, military fortifications, city maps - to investigate how the physical sites and less literal structures, social, economic and politic activity unfold.
References ‘architecture’ as a metaphor for spaces and ideas of power
Techniques – colour, dynamic mark making, resemble diagrams of weather patterns or shifting air masses – but also signify human activity, refers to marks as characters, reflects theme of formation of social identity, marks present a multitude of stories, relationship between marks portray interaction of individuals and communities with each other and their environment.
Marks suggest a collective energy and denote places of atmosphere, looser gestures cause them to resemble less figures than forces of energy
Image changes depending on your physical relationship to it: at a distance like looking at a city, cosmology from afar; close up – image shatters into numerous other stories, events. The viewer pieces a narrative as ones experiences of the city comprise distinct moments, scenes, acts. Viewer changes position to take in shifts in scale and layered imagery, explores psychogeographic landscape
Technical construction: loads of lines, marks, shapes, overlapping shapes of colour, clouds of pigment, like a series of erasures, each stage eradicating the last.
History not entirely rubbed out – it is inscribed, layering and partial veiling of information along lines of multiple viewpoints
Notes from 'An Archaeology of the Air' by Bruce Dillon (from Grey Area)
Theme of contemporary urban warfare -city is constantly redrawn and imagined ‘explosion of the boundary’
Dust – accretion of images is it’s own form of erasure, blurs distinctions between forms and effacing outlines of familiar historical narratives
Underlying lattice of architectural or cartographic forms is further confused by drama of the line, symbol and brush stroke
Erases selected areas of drawing and marks producing effect of dust cloud, Julie Mehretu’s grey is ‘the colour of possibility of the inchoate and unrealised.’
Her paintings are indebted to destruction and decay, lines of flight, pursuit, escape, accompanied by a more diffuse surface
My background is in architecture. My point of departure for the MA was the final project for my diploma where I digitally assembled and collaged a collection of mappings (aerial, shadow, text, texture, cartographic, cognitive, psychogeographic, data) of an urban site into a virtual landscape, ‘the archive’. It was a subjective response to the site and an attempt to present a fractured urban narrative which would resist linear interpretation. The archive was also animated to reflect a virtual cyberspace - a transient landscape in constant flux.
I had designed a digital environment, but going forward I would be concerned about:
how I develop these techniques to generate more tactile renderings
how I re-frame my interests within the context of an art practice to distil a clear message
3D SCULPTURAL WORKS
In ‘Shifting Surfaces’ I attempt to evoke the liminal spaces that form the boundaries/edges between the urban and the rural as described in ‘Edgelands’ by Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts, where neither nature or man made is control. Many of these sites would be left over remnants of post industrial landscapes with the colour of rust a dominant ‘edgelands’ tone.
I try and reference this rust tone in my piece where I print on rusted steel - to give the surface an additional layer - losing the bland unblemished metal and transforming it to a vibrant rich rust that varies in intensity. The colour of the surface print both references the blue print (an old way of presenting / drawing architectural plans) and an artificial blue that represents past industrial processes. The screen printing on the material is imperfect - due to the rust and the surface variations of the steel.
I folded the metal along the grid lines so that it would stand up and the whole piece would become more animated, transforming into an object in space that creates new surfaces and disrupts the reading of the screen print. The external gridded screen prints reference a more man made aesthetic and the internal surfaces a more natural space, I'd like to think this sets up a dialogue between them and that piece in some way alludes to the notion of a ruin within a liminal space.
FRAGMENTS OF CONTESTED TERRAIN
In 'Fragments of a Contested Terrain' I attempt to set up an opposition between a thin fragile piece of paper and a heavy but chaotic structure. The structure at first glance is based on a grid like form - a grid that you would normally expect to be an organisational force, but as you get closer and move around the piece it appears more incoherent. The background image does not have a fixed location in time and space, it’s a natural landscape (almost lunar in quality) that seems vast and timeless. There is a contrast between the man made steel construction (symbol of dominance) and the natural untouched landscape (which is a fictional derivation and is not routed in one specific place.) The title 'Fragments of a Contested Terrain' hints at this man made construction and you could draw allusions with the possible future development of nearby planets.