Val Britton ‘String Theory’2009
72” X 96”, Ink, collage, graphite and gouache on paper
Detail from "String Theory"
Val Britton was born in Livingston, NJ. She earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School
of Design, Providence, RI 1999, and a MFA, from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco/Oakland, CA, 2006.
She lives and works in San Francisco, CA
Britton creates intricate collage works that vary in size from pieces as
large as 72 x 96 inches to small intimate pieces 8.5 x 8.5 inches. While
Val works with a variety of papers by staining, painting, tearing, cutting, composing...she looks
to the language of mapping and drawing to inform her process.
continent and island like shapes are cut or torn from pieces of this prepared paper, these shapes are in contrast to other areas of meticulous and elaborate line work that look similar to the intricacy of a spider’s web. Britton's lines are painstakingly cut out and composed. These matchstick and thread like lines criss-cross over richly coloured areas. Deep magenta, fuchsia, gray and turquoise are shot
through with tones of rich earthy browns next to velvet black land masses. Other colour areas puddle together in pools like gasoline sits on top of water leaving rings of shimmering iridescent
blues and pinks. Other areas of paper have slits cut in and
delicately peeled back adding texture and direction to her collage pieces.
The vernacular of cartography informs the look and feel of Britton's complex
collages. She has created a rich vocabulary that translates well into her
work; a network of contour lines depict topographical and geographical
information whereas cut and punctured areas symbolize roads, routes and
directional co-ordinates. Britton
employs drawing elements such as line, shape, texture, colour, value, size and
scale to order, direct and structure her unique artworks.
takes the vernacular of both mapping and drawing combining them with traditional
painting materials such as gouache, ink, tempera and latex paint. She begins
her work by sketching from
old photographs, projecting maps, sections of her
drawings and ink paintings onto her support material.
inspiration comes from USA transcontinental trucking routes that her father traversed during his career. Her father passed away when
she was a teenager and in trying to come to terms with his death she
says she is mapping out the psychological and emotional spaces inside of her. Mapping acts as a metaphor in Britton's collages, she is searching and exploring a new terrain in order to piece together
fragments of her past life. Written by Jill Ehlert
Julie Mehretu isan American artist who was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She studied at University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar (1990–91), earned a BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan (1992), and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1997). She lives and works in New York City, NY and Berlin, Germany.
Julie Mehretu creates extremely large-scale acrylic paintings that refer to elements of architecture and mapping. Her work is often epic in proportions, with some pieces being as large as of 21 by 85 feet on canvas. The paintings are visually stunning, full of movement and an energy that seems to erupt and explode outward from a centrifugal force. These paintings are built using multiple layers of drawing with ink, pencil and acrylic paint. She pushes the boundaries between painting and drawing with her highly inventive and unique vocabulary of mark making. Swirling, flowing, erratic, combustible, bursting, choppy, staccato like marks, lines and symbols populate her work.
The focus and evolution of her studio practice comes from the language of drawing. In 1995 while in art school, Julie developed a personal visual language -- a system of marks and symbols that she uses in her work to this day. She describes her visual language as an exploration that “goes back to the cellular level where language comes from” Laying down her individual marks in an indexical fashion, she reduced and deciphered the process until her glyph like forms became notational. Different artistic influences in her development are the Russian Constructivists, Kazimir Malevich, the Italian Futurists and Wassily Kandsinsky. J.M.W. Turner’s skies and the atmosphere that he created in his paintings inspire her to paint forces like she senses in his work.
Julie’s rich vocabulary of symbols and glyphs remind me of the marks and lines in the etchings of Rembrandt. Mehretu’s mark making is also influenced by her experience with printmaking and Chinese calligraphy. She is also inspired by graffiti, video games and Japanese manga cartoons.
Julie recognized that one individual mark has a sense of power or social agency She describes: "the hand and mark create a ‘behaviour’ and that groups of similar marks can shift the surface of a picture by its behaviour depending on how they are drawn” for example: aggressive or passive; some groups or communities operate with one another or become devoured by each other. She feels her marks take on characteristics and in turn calls them “characters”. These characters and clusters of marks then needed a place to inhabit where they could behave, retaliate, be self-deterministic or battle with each other.
Looking to outside references, Mehretu typically begins a painting by layering her favoured source materials which usually consists of detailed architectural plans or city maps. Her sources often incorporate schematic depictions of modern, historic or ancient buildings such as stadiums, military and industrial complexes, public spaces, airports, and financial institutions.
Julie creates these “story maps of no location” by projecting some of these references onto her support, using technical pens and rulers to trace them onto the ground. The work is preconceived and intentional. The drawing process references techniques of precision drawing by using a hard-edged geometric style. Mehretu uses Cartesian analysis throughout the research process in order to make sense of the invented places that create a context for her ‘characters’ to invade. At different points, she applies an acrylic and silica mixture which is painted and sanded smooth to create a translucent veil, which allows her to embed the drawn marks beneath creating a spatial depth.
Successive drawings traced become more abstracted through this multiple layering process. This additive and subtractive method is a transformative process that symbolizes change over history and in the painting itself. The top layer contains her painted language, which is applied loose and gestural; her calligraphic marks are painted with brush and ink through an intuitive organic process. Colour is referenced from the code colours on maps and culturally codified colours such as flags.
Mehretu’s paintings ‘depict social concerns of power, history and globalism layered with her own narrative of place, space and time that impact the formation of personal and communal identity’.
Paintings of the last few years include what she calls a ‘third space,’which emerges from the collision of the architectural drawings, her mark making and through repeated erasure. She metaphorically describes this third space “as the ruin or the un-building of space - a hybrid identity, an area of the sublime”. Mehretu describes all of these moments as being mashed together where a new potential emerges.
Julie’s central focus is always on the drawing process. She tries to understand her work through drawing; it is her point of entry and departure. Drawing is the backbone language of her practice, it informs and supports everything else in her work. Written by Jill Ehlert
For more information on Julie:
PBS Video: Art21 - This is a great video as are all the artist videos at this website
Audio interview from British Museum with Tim Marlowe and Julie Mehretu in conjunction with the show "Picasso to Julie Mehretu" modern drawings from the British Museum collection.
Published/ 2002 by The Museum of Modern Art - Laura Hoptman
Drawing Now, published to accompany the first major survey of contemporary drawings at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 15 years, contains more than 100 color reproductions of work by 26 international artists, both well-known and emerging, that demonstrate the fascinating variety of methods and approaches, mediums and scales, apparent in this old-again, new-again art. Accompanying essays by the exhibition's curator, Laura Hoptman, explore eight themes that she perceives in the field--Drafting & Architecture, Mental Maps & Metaphysics, Popular Culture & National Culture, Fashion, Likeness & Allegory, Envisioning a City, Science & Art, Comics & Other Subcultures, Ornament & Crime--and provide key impulses behind drawing's recent resurgence.
Artists Include: Kara Walker, John Currin, Toba Khedoori, Chris Ofili, Franz Ackerman, Kai Althoff, Russell Crotty, Graham Little, Mark Manders, Barry McGee, Julie Mehretu, Yoshitomo Nara, Paul Noble, Jockum Nordstrom, Jennifer Pastor, Los Carpinteros,Laura Owens, E;izabeth Peyton, Matthew Ritchie, Ugo Rondinone, Shahiza Sikander, David Thorpe, and Richard Wright amongst others.
The past twenty years have seen an emergence of drawing as a dynamic art form.
Since the 1990s, many artists challenged and rejected “process art” of the Conceptual and Minimalist artists from the 1960's -1970's as well as the post-1980's conceptualists.
Artists of that earlier time period felt drawing was the “act of doing”, a direct method for documenting ideas, emotions or discoveries made during the creative process. The "action taken" was the work of art; the end product was not the principle focus.
Contemporary drawing artists today have connections to the working practice of nineteenth-century artists with representational references and fully realized art works. The artists of this new millennium differ from those in the mid twentieth century given they draw with intention, make choices and consider formal and abstract issues in their work.
With a resurgence in this discipline and a new found freedom, drawing artists of the twenty-first century, redefine and push boundaries in new directions. Their art sometimes flows off the page and into the real world; the visual language of the two-dimensional invades the three-dimensional merging with time and space.
Disciplines such as sculpture, video, film and performance are incorporated into this new expanded field. Drawing artists look to outside references such as cartographic language, cartooning, video games, Chinese scroll painting and calligraphy. They employ the techniques and formal vocabularies of precision drawing, scientific and architectural drafting, industrial and commercial architecture, ornamental design and the everyday object as a way to project their ideas. They draw upon notions of intimacy, subjectivity, history, globalization, memory, nostalgia and the narrative.They experiment and push the limits of non-traditional materials like rope, string, ribbon, mylar, film, magnetic tape, cable, wire, sticks, maps, boards, pins, nails, cardboard...the list is endless. Exploring methods by burning, soldering, cutting, projecting, tyeing, knotting, etc.
Drawing today has become a primary mode of expression.
Over the next week I will introduce you to artist's who employ drawing as the main focus in their art practice; as well as books on drawing artists and techniques.
Untitled 2000 Ink, colored pencil and cut paper on Mylar 18 x 24 in. Museum of Modern Art
Julie Mehretu When Dawn Were Young 2004 Ink and acrylic on canvas 140 X 189 in.
Julie Mehretu Black Ctty 2007 Ink and acrylic on canvas 120 X 192 in. Detail, Black City
DRAWING INTO PAINTING
Julie Mehretuisan American artist who
was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 1977, the family fled their
homeland immigrating to the United States and settling in Michigan. Mehreutu lives and works in New York City, NY and Berlin, Germany.
Mehretu creates large-scale
abstract paintings with a narrative content, one that reflects her interest in
geography, architecture, history, and urban life. Mehretu’s favourite
source materials consist of architectural plans and city maps. These often
incorporate schematic depictions of modern, historic or ancient buildings such
as stadiums, military and industrial complexes, public spaces, airports, and
financial institutions. Julie Mehretu illustrates her social concerns of power, history and globalism layered with her narrative of place, space and time that impacts the formation of a personal and communal identity.
Mehretu’s paintings are visually stunning, full of movement and an
energy that seems to erupt and explode outward from a centrifugal force. These
paintings are built using multiple layers of drawing with ink, pencil and
acrylic paint. She pushes the boundaries between painting and drawing with her highly
inventive and unique vocabulary of mark making. Swirling, flowing, erratic lines
and symbols populate her work.
Keeping a journal has become a popular means of creativity and self-expression.
Here the works of 35 contemporary and historical journal keepers are explored through visual elements such as drawings, photos, collage, charts and detritus taped into journal pages. The images are accompanied by profiles that highlight journal-keeping habits and the creative process driving the writer.
The examples used here have been provided by contributors from all professions and walks of life, including David Byrne, Mike Figgis, Carol Beckwith and Sophie Binder. Their examples will provide journalers with a host of new ideas to enhance their own journals.
Book review and a look inside the book, click on: Parka Blogs