Calligraphic Blue

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Joanne Freeman's work in progress at Gallery Ehva in Provincetown

When I was in Provincetown last week I stopped in at Gallery Ehva on Shank Painter Road, where Joanne Freeman was in the middle of a residency.  The image above is what I saw when I walked in: A work in progress with many sheets of calligraphic shapes on the floor. The sheets were painted in an ultramarine-ish gouache with a flat brush so that the thickness of the line never wavered. The color was unremarkable, dry and uninflected.

From that scatter of sheets, Freeman would select one and begin to modulate the color. As she dampened the line, then blotted and wiped, gorgeous things started to happen: The ultramarine became richly transparent. It had depth. There were undertones of cobalt. Turquoise emerged. The work was far enough along that the chromatic difference between the sheets on the floor and those on the wall was quite apparent.

One of the sheets Freeman was working on

Freeman talking about the project (note the paper towel under the table; she did a lot of blotting). Sketches for the work were made in Otranto, Italy, during an earlier residency, she said

 Above: The work in progress. What you can't tell from the photograph is that the wall-mounted sheets are collaged so that the calligraphic line is edited and redirected

Below: Calligraphic sheets spread out on the floor

The finished work: Otranto, 2012, gouache and collage on paper, 82 x 118 inches; image courtesy of the artist

Seeing the work in progress--and then a few days later, an emailed image of the finished work--I was struck by the cursive and chromatic symmetry between it and the blue tile niche wall in the newly renovated Middle Eastern wing at The Met, which I'd photographed the previous week.  All of the blue tiles and vessels resonated with that symmetry.

"Not a coincidence," says Freeman. "I really like arabic calligraphy. I've spent a lot of time in Morocco."

But a lovely serendipity.

A few views of the newly renovated Middle Eastern wing, officially called Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Link here

 I especially love the cobalt and turquoise ceramics


Diane Englander said...

Lovely work, and interesting to hear the process. Thanks.

Nancy Natale said...

This is great to see the work in progress and hear about Joanne's process. I love seeing it on the wall and on the floor together. The connection to the ceramics is wonderful. Those cobalt and turquoise glazes with the calligraphy are a beautiful combination.

Anonymous said...

lovely work, also reminds me of Matisse's chapel in Vence....

Julian Jackson said...

Really nice pairing!Thx! Puts me in mind also of Christine Heibert's wall drawings using blue tape. Worth a look.

Peter Hopkins said...

An amazing new work from a wonderful artist/ a result I called Joanne and she will show this and new works next season in an incredible 3 person show in the heart of the new art world...Bushwick

Joanne Mattera said...

I love to hear stories like this. Congratulations, Joanne and Peter!