Zoom conversation with Moma by Jodi Hauptman, Julie Mehretu, and Samatha Friedman on 24 June 2021. Conversation/discussion on Cezanne and the work of Julie Mehretu.

The first discussion was looking at drawings as a particular way of thinking; the artist trying to making sense of the world through looking and trying to deal with a flat space/surface. Mehretu sees Cezanne’s mark-making in his drawings as a language/vocabulary which suggests volume/form/planes. (cross-hatching) The compositional structure was discussed – she mentions drama in the middle, then the edges, a structural way how it is put together, and suggest it a form of logic? Julie Mehretu sees her marks as signifiers in a score.

Is the line a search for form was asked. Julie discusses lines as “actions/agents that take on the effort of something that exists in space”, a participative way – suggest a feel, receding space. Julie does not see the lines as searching – it is a way of understanding the world he is looking at. Articulating something – a sense of knowledge. Julie discusses his studies – as a constant figuring out of something. There are spaces in between, not accidental or unrelated – thinking through drawing, some even sublime experiences. (cupid without head – rubbed out, marks around the head, movement around it). It was compared with a drawing of Mehretu – Helen’s Room, 2018. a more sensual drawing -the back of a male.

Looking at his watercolour drawings – effort at trying to play with space, but still a flatness is experienced – not very descriptive lines. She sees it as the artist getting information and trying to show an angle/force. Drawing on paper is investigative, put painting is different.

They discussed landscape – look at flatness and depth. Creating a sense of space on paper, the marks create shape, but the kind of paper plays a role as well. Julie sees the dynamic of repetitive marks as part of how a landscape shifts all the time – she sees a kind of shimmering. Patch of colours, left to dry before the next one was painted -let to dry, a sense of time as he had to wait for the paint to dry. Rapid motions are articulated – moments of labour is seen. Painting you go back into the wet – and manifestations happen.

They talked about series – she sees it as cycles or bodies of work, and in general, she does not work in that way. It is a study of in-betweenness – in the difference and repetition is where you learn or develop knowledge. The lesson happens when the ‘head’ is out of the way and not aware of what it is trying to do – something else trying to take over.

Discussion around printmaking – techniques used and modern digital development/ knowledge. Etching opens up the knowledge of layers in a work – making is so layered, almost working backwards.

Final question: what her work makes possible? Images of work are where we experience – painting or film take time to make and experience/understand -so different from what people would be looking at when using a phone screen. She feels strongly about a visceral experience with a work, which can also be transformative as a form of knowledge.


YouTube. (2018). Henri Matisse at work. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDLg6pCn8Bk [Accessed 25 June 2021 ].

YouTube. (2018). Henri Matisse at Work in 1946 – Young Woman in White. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJX3s1DkeDw [Accessed 25 June 2021 ].

YouTube. (2018). Henri Matisse speaking about drawing and painting. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiEIeitUNFs&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 25 June 2021].

Whitecube.com. (2018). White Cube – Artists – Julie Mehretu. [online] Available at: https://whitecube.com/artists/artist/julie_mehretu/ [Accessed 25 June 2021 ].

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