Last month on a visit to China, I found what is called a new urban district in the making. I took about 350 photos of what you could call Urban Decay landscapes where houses have been demolished to make way for new developments. This will form the basis of my next series which I’ll be working on in 2019.
I was reminded of the inspirational work of Julie Mehretu who makes large-scale, gestural paintings that are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making using pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint.
Mehretu’s work uses layering to compress time, space and place. Her points of departure are architecture and the city, particularly the densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century, and her canvases overlay different architectural features such as columns, façades and porticoes with geographical schema such as charts, building plans and city maps and architectural renderings, seen from multiple perspectives, at once aerial, cross-section and isometric. She describes her canvases as “story maps of no location”, seeing them as pictures into an imagined reality. Through its cacophony of marks, her work seems to represent the speed of the modern city depicted, conversely, with the time-aged materials of pencil and paint.
The pictures I took are of flattened areas where you could see evidence under the green canvas sheets that communities had once lived. They seem to me to be a temporary urban blank canvas before the builders rapidly move in and speedily overlay the land with a modern architectural building plan.