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.

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  1. So tell me a bit about your current series?
The current series that I’m working on here at L’Ane Vert is called the Scroll Series,  this piece being number 5 in the series. My intention is to create a total of 7, which I will complete in Spring 2017 – next year. I started the series in Spring 2014 and create 2 a year – one in Summer and one in Spring – always in a new place for a period of 4 weeks.
The idea of the Scroll Series is based on what I call “memory still lives”. From recent experiences of foreign spaces , I gather different memories that I both internalise , as well as record through writings on an old typewriter I carry with me. The typewriter acts as a sort of Polaroid camera, the produced notes as references which will sometimes then become poetic in nature and later coincide as a poem with a created work.
When I’m creating one of these scrolls, these memories have been percolating, almost fermenting, for a period of time which I then project onto canvas , always striving to originate my movements from a place of sensitivity rather than emotion,  remembrance rather than nostalgia.
This elusive distinction is very important to me in my work – the reason being that by translating what is outside of my immediate sphere, I allow a certain commonality underneath the of noise of the everyday to emerge. By using the particularities of individual cultures as reference points, I feel my work becomes accessible to others – this is also why I always attempt to leave my work ‘unfinished’ or undone. These become doorways or tassels that allow viewers to have their own personal exchange with the work. However, I’m by no means an expert at this practice… I suppose this is why I hold onto this statement ; each piece is just another draft for the next…
Once a piece is complete I leave it in the environment in which it was created. So they’re currently all over, scattered around in various places. The goal is to regather all of them once the work has been completed next year having little pop-up exhibitions along the way, the ‘book’ growing till the entire scroll becomes complete.
  1. And why the name – why is this project called ‘The Scroll Series’?
Each piece really is an individual scroll itself. When I’m done making them, I roll them around large poles that I have found from that particular place to literally create a scroll. Again , these are fragments isolated from their origin places By really examining the particularities of them, they become an open door to something broader.
Once I have re-gathered all of these pieces I will find space where I can literally sew each chapter together.
A final exhibition will allow visitors to quite literally ‘scroll’ through the story, each piece a chapter I’ve been weaving . Interaction is integral to the piece, so what I present is really merely a suggestion, a sort of framework, for viewers to find their own dialogue.
  1. 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?
When I’m making a painting, I never have a set plan of what it’s going to look like. It’s a bit like Daoism meditation or a form of meditation-in-motion. I really just allow my hand to lead and do the work for me while I sit back and enjoy the show! I love this moment and is very important to me so that my experience when creating becomes tactile, almost primitive, in its nature. By temporarily cutting away the intellect, I am able to reinforce my intention – to access these universal stories. What will happen at a certain point is that the canvas will almost start to speak to me so that it becomes an intimate conversation between me and the work – the work always leading me.
At the end – this is fascinating, but this is number 5 and it’s happened 4 times now successfully – there will be certain themes that emerge.  Usually, I  find – though I don’t have this as a set rule – some sort of classical reference emerging. I have a suspicion I know what this one is going to be, but I’m not going to say anything – I’m pushing that away until a later point.
  1. 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?
Since the end of the creation of the first scroll, I’ve been a bit in awe of blue and its elusive somewhat seductive nature. A friend of mine in this small little village in Andalucía suggested I cross the water and go to Morocco because I could find not only fantastic pigments there but also an answer to my blue obsession. I wanted to but funds were limited, and so instead gathered my pigments from the Rio Tinto Grande – an incredible abandoned mine in Huelva – where the earth is so acidic and filled with colours that even NASA used the site as a reference for studies of Mars! Anyway, that has become a theme now; pigments are gathered either from the earth or from that particular environment in some way.
The idea of Morocco has been haunting me since that first scroll. I  actually stumbled across L’Ane Vert itself online while looking for blue pigment one of the scrolls .
Antoine, the owner, was hosting his first artist-in-residence , and the place seemed ideal and sounded somehow like home . So I wrote him an email . Making a long story short, after 3 tries I’ve finally managed to arrive!

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  1. 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 .

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Photo by Jake Borden

 

  1. 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.

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Photo by Jake Borden

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Photo by Jake Borden

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Photo by Jake Borden


You can explore Gabrielle’s website here to keep up to date with the Scroll series and her other projects.