Often the best ideas come from what surrounds you and that is why many artists use architecture as a source for inspiration. Architecture is something we experience every day whether or not we are aware of it. It might be the building we live in, or the structures where we work, or places we visit when we travel. Architecture is everywhere.
June Higgins, a VISA alumni who after finishing her Diploma of Fine Art, went to the UK to complete a BFA. For the last few years her work has centred around using projected fragments of architectural ornamentation to develop a multi-layered composition. The specific sources dissolve into a myriad of lines and patterns to create an allusive image that looks both recognizable and unfamiliar. The result is a beautifully complex surface. June's work is currently on exhibit at the Gage Gallery until Oct 26
Julie Mehretu, a New York artist of Ethiopian descent, uses tracings of architectural blueprints along with layers of maps and abstract mark making in her large scale paintings. The role of architectural sources in Mehretu's work takes on layered meanings as she often uses the structures of buildings such as stadiums as a base for her compositions. The coliseum is seen as a perfect metaphoric constructed space because its purpose is to situate large numbers of people, while also containing undercurrents of complete chaos, violence, and disorder. As Mehretu said in 2006: “I think architecture reflects the machinations of politics, and that’s why I’m interested in it as a metaphor for those institutions. I don’t think of architectural language as just a metaphor about space. It’s about space, but about spaces of power, about the ideas of power.”
Kevin Appel has used references to architecture in his work from the start of his practice. In the early 2000s he began to make drawings and paintings that dealt with the inside and outside of architecture as well as the idea of construction from timber. Appel's relationship to architecture is discussed in detail in an essay called Painting as Architecture: Architecture as Painting. The source for the paintings are collaged drawings, however the paintings are acrylic on canvas (no collage). Using collage for the initial sources creates an ambiguity and uncertainty in the painted surface.
Richard Wright's approach to architecture differs in that he makes "wall paintings" that are between painting and installation art. These paintings are often subtle to the point of becoming part of the architecture structures themselves such as the stairwell project in the Scotland National Gallery of Modern Art. They are often awkwardly placed in discreet locations and they combine graphic imagery and intricate patterning from sources as varied as medieval painting, graphics and typography.
Wright won 2009 Turner Prize for a wall painting done in gold leaf (see image). When the jurors were asked why they chose Wright’s piece, they kept referring to the word “beauty” and also the work’s relationship to the space itself.
The next time you enter your home or place of work, look around and take time to think about how it might inspire something in your imagination. Perhaps your rumination about these personal architectural spaces could one day be a source for subject matter in your own work.