Through The Artist’s Eyes: An Interview with Gabrielle Meyerowitz.
‘Born in 1988 in a small village outside of New York, Gabrielle Meyerowitz has always found solace in colour and line and has understood it as her medium. She studied painting and drawing at Pratt Institute and the Arts Students League in New York, before embarking on a couple of long-term artist assistantships, with continued studies in movement and theatre in Paris and residencies mostly in Europe.’ – gabriellemeyerowitz.com
I met Gabrielle in a beautiful hostel and creative space, L’Ane Vert, on the west Coast of Morocco and became fascinated with her work and the philosophies that both fuel and emerge from her art.
So tell me a bit about your current series?
And why the name – why is this project called ‘The Scroll Series’?
I’ve seen from some of your previous pieces that each scroll seems to have an emerging, often classical theme – what’s your formula for intertwining these philosophies?
You’ve said you have a suspicion of the emerging theme of this piece, but what is the foundation for this particular piece – what would you say your starting point is?
So why blue, what prompted you to use blue as the primary piece for this particular scroll?
The whole painting is actually created by a variety of different natural Moroccan blues . Blue is the only colour that cannot be taken directly from nature. Instead, a process is always necessary to arrive at the finished blue. I was obsessed with this idea of how the Moroccans created it, the Chinese, the Egyptians… What was particular about these specific cultures that inspired them to create this colour? This search for blue is actually another separate project fuelled by my fascination, and I plan on going to these other countries and learning the origins and the technique of creating each blue… but all in good time. As a painter, I feel it’s incredibly important to learn facets of my metier – this gives my works breadth or substance .
Can you tell me how it is that you mix your pigment to turn it into paint?
Once I have found the pigments I want to use, I transform their raw form into tempera. I use linseed oil to create an oil-based paint and then add the yellow of an egg yolk. It was really on the recommendation of an Italian friend who advised me to look into tempera, an old renaissance technique that uses the yolk of an egg to basically act as a binder so it will last longer. After that, I found this wonderful old classic book explaining how to create it. The process is wonderful, almost like a meditation. I really love how you take the egg yolk and you dry it, and then you puncture a very small hole in it and you add it. Everything is measured out – a bit like cooking. And it really works.
We’ve talked about where this project began, but do you have a view to the environments that you might want to create your next two pieces – specifically your final piece in?
I had this idea from the beginning that for the final piece I want to create it on a cargo ship. The reason being that a cargo ship for me is a bridge of sorts between cultures, in both a positive and negative light. As westerners, we rely heavily on these boats for our modern amenities. The ocean as well is very prevalent in my work. The ocean is really the unconscious, or the womb, or belly of the world. To be in that space and setting, on a cargo ship, for a period of 4 weeks, to work in an environment which would juxtapose modern culture, that is something I am very interested in. It seems fitting to create the last chapter of these series within this setting.
And tell me about your suitcase that you carry with you everywhere.
So the suitcase comes from when I was a student in Paris – which I was until 2012. And that year I found this lovely old suitcase outside where I was living. Always feeling a bit like a foreigner wherever I landed, I decided it best to name this suitcase ‘home’ and called it Valise. Because this became my place of anchorage or home, I was mobile and free to explore foreign space without any kind of inhibition or hesitation.
Your suitcases name is Valise! Is this suitcase the foundation of your aforementioned collaborative ‘Projet Valise’?
Yes, well – “valise” is simply the French word for suitcase & nothing more – but absolutely. It began when my partner and I went on a little summer trip along the southern coast of France in her car. I was thrilled because I had sold 2 paintings and had just enough money to buy some good art supplies, which I put quite happily into the suitcase. Not knowing where to stay on our second night, and budget always in mind, my partner – being the charmer that she is – said, let’s go knock on this person’s door and see if we can spend the night in their garden with our tent. I said that’s absolutely crazy, why would we do such a thing, let’s just put our tent out in the middle of the forest. But she insisted and so did the knocking, while I stood with suitcase in hand. The outcome was a beautiful exchange and the origin seeds of Projet Valise.
I know you are currently travelling and in the midst of this series but are you looking to find a more permanent base at some point?
Yes. It’s interesting, my suitcase is actually quite fragile and somewhat broken at this point . And though it’s really held up and has gone everywhere with me for 4 years , I begin to feel a bit silly with it, like a child with a doll . I’m incredibly grateful for my travels, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever really stop, but at the same time, to have the stability of a studio is something I’m seriously looking into and desire at this point. I’m not quite sure where it is going to be yet. It could be Germany, it could be Detroit, it could be New York – I’m open-minded and I’m looking into all options . It’s time to put the valise on the shelf for a bit and find the latest incarnation of my work in the stillness of four walls and whitespace.
You can explore Gabrielle’s website here to keep up to date with the Scroll series and her other projects.