Coincidentally, the three artists I have been researching this past week are all women. I also wrote recently about Michelle Stuart and Onya McCausland; both female practitioners who have changed the direction of my own practice in quite substantial ways.
In the genre of land art it seems that the field is largely dominated by male practitioners who are commonly known and referenced - such as Richard Long or Hamish Fulton.
I have not been actively trying to find specifically female artists to reference in my writing - but it is interesting to notice how, increasingly, more of my favourite artists are women. On reflection, after compiling this post, I think that looking up to the practices of contemporary female artists who are pushing boundaries, immersing themselves in solo travel and working with themes and ideas similar to my own can only be a positive thing.
The first of the artists I have been reading about this week is Helen Mirra. Discovered quite by accident having been sent a photograph of her work from a book found in Berlin by Tom, I did some further research and soon became enamoured by her practice.
Helen Mirra operates across various forms of art-making, referring to her 'rhythm of working' as a kind of 'paced printmaking, made through walking'.
Mirra explores themes of travel, mapping and geography. Upon initial viewing, photographs of Mirra's work appear minimalistic. However, on reading articles and interviews about Mirra's practice, the point is not in the materials themselves or even how they look. The point is to evoke a variety of references to history, geography and nature. Assemblages of elements that facilitate a visual way of making a commentary.
Although visually minimalistic, Mirra's conceptual ambition is far from that. Upon research and contextual reading, it has become evident to me that Mirra is a maximalist under the guise of aesthetic sparsity. This is something I strive to achieve in my own practice - a minimalistic body of work that carries a myriad of deeper meanings beyond the work's surface.
The minimalistic works of Mirra brings the attention of the viewer to the small intricacies in nature; awakening our ethical responsibilities towards the environment.
Mirra attempts to resist an idealised notion of nature whilst still exploring the ordering, curating and 'mapping' of the natural world. Her works evokes a scientific feel, partially due to their calligraphic and cartographic aspects. The final pieces all emerge from fragments. Elements that come together in a sort of artistic curation, at the hand of Mirra herself, to form a finished commentary on her personal walking experiences.
Mirra’s installations are usually incredible minimal; made with simple materials such as wool, raw linen, hand-dyed cotton and rocks the artist has found on her walks.
Mirra organises her walks into finished works that take various forms – printmaking, sometimes writing, sometimes audio recordings - to raise questions concerning human engagement with the environment.
Mirra has replaced studio work with walking outdoors. For example, during the making of 'Field Recordings', Mirra walked and once an hour selected an object - a stone, or a tree stump - inked it, then made a print of it onto linen. Mirra's approach brings her to her knees before the intricacies of nature.
In an interview with Rena Leinberger, Mirra spoke about the cartographic element of her practice They spoke about cartography as a way of representation. Mirra commented that real maps are useful in a way they hers are not, but that as an artist she felt the need for some sort of structure to make work within. She felt that cartography was the right path for her because there are mathematics involved and a sort of potency. I resonate with this feeling of needing a structure and now I can see why mapping has helped me progress in my practice. Cartography has given me that 'structure'.
Anna Ayeroff works primarily in sculpture, unique photography and developing processes, film and drawing, using her art practice as a research tool to explore ideas of utopia and 'perfect place'.
Ayeroff goes on a yearly (and sometimes bi-yearly) 'pilgrimage of sorts' to Utah. These trips are for her studio work and to shoot film for her on-going project 'Moving the Mountains'. Ayeroff was born and raised in Los Angeles but travels to Utah after discovering a family history that she had never known about. Her grandfather was born in Utah on a Jewish farm colony called Clarion. The colony failed after several years but that strange short family history in Utah drew her to the landscape there.
Land/Light/Longitude is an umbrella title for the work that Ayeroff makes on the road, using her van as a mobile studio. She tackles unpredictable problems that arise making photographic work without a darkroom. Her van is her only space.
Her processes are repetitive and labor-intensive. She pulls prints on a lithography press for hours on end and hand processes all of her film with a developer she makes herself from instant coffee and vitamin C.
She often plays with blurring the lines between digital and analog, original and reproduction. She embraces the use of Super 8, 35mm and 120mm film, but then manipulates her photography with untraditional methods of scanning and digitally printing.
Ayeroff develops her film with a non-toxic developer made from coffee and vitamin C; caffenol. The process leaves the results heavily to chance. Ayeroff often finds that her film is streaked with stains. Using caffenol as the developer also stains the paper coffee colored, dating it, evoking a timeless feel to the imagery.
Ayeroff also use cyanotypes to make prints with light. There is an emphasis Ayeroff places on the relationship between chemistry, time and light; collaborating, making marks as the sun changes position.
Interestingly, when she starts formulating ideas for new pieces, she writes. Her sketchbooks aren’t drawing based - they’re text based.
This has given me some sort of confidence; I've always found it tricky to visually 'draw-out' my ideas into sketchbooks, much preferring to pen down my thoughts in words. It's reassuring to find successful, practicing artists who also prefer the written word to get their concepts down.
A big part of Ayeroff's practice is solo travel. Something that I keep coming back to. Something I keep thinking about myself.
Ayeroff says that solo travel changed her way of approaching the world. She speaks about the power she found it it that she has been unable to find elsewhere. "It’s often uncomfortable and simultaneously rich with growth", she writes.
She started slow and small herself, by just taking solo day trips out to Joshua Tree National Park, where there was no phone reception and she was completely isolated. On her first roadtrip to Utah she stayed in cheap hotels. She camps, now that she has her van. It's a dream that is currently quite unattainable for me, with a limited budget and limited means of travel. But the idea of one day travelling purely to make work about a place consumes me.
Ali Beletic is a conceptual artist working sculpturally to create evocative experiences for her viewers, reflecting her connectedness to the earth and her desire to simplify the beauty of nature. The motifs of primeval rituals, vast natural spaces and journeys manifest themselves throughout her work, inviting viewers to 'recreate the experience of their ancestors'.
Her practice hones in on a philosophical perspective regarding the human tradition of celebration. Her work draws on a wide variety of ancient symbols, materials, art, medicine, ecology and mythology to help invoke some of these instincts.
Beletic believes and works with the philosophgy that when you look at things deeply there is always much more than what the surface dictates. When Beletic moved to the Sonoran desert she formed a strong emotional connection with the landscape there. Since then, it has been her intention to invoke that instinct and the innate emotions she felt at that time within the context of the contemporary art world.
In Beletic's mineral painting series she hones in on a primitivist perspective, choosing to work with natural and raw ancient technologies, materials and mythological shapes.
Each mineral is selected carefully and crushed down to a fine powder to be used and celebrated purely for the natural beauty in its colour.