Julie Mehretu

Epigraph, Damascus, 2016

Julie Mehretu’s points of departure for Epigraph, Damascus are layered architectural drawings of buildings in Damascus, Syria. Columns, arches and porticoes, shown from multiple perspectives, are among the many depicted architectural details of the war-torn city. While political and social elements are unavoidably tied to these architectural forms, Mehretu once described her works as ‘story maps of no location’, manifestations of an imagined rather than actual reality. Deconstructed elements, symbols, from well-known places get fused, and new meanings emerge.

The complexity of the subject matter is reflected in the work’s technique: The piece consists of six individually framed panels; the size of the complete work amounts to about 250 x 575 cm (app. 8.2 x 18.9 ft). Despite its dense, many-layered composition, Epigraph, Damascus was printed from just two plates: A framework of architectural drawings forms the basis for the first direct gravure plate, which was then composited together with a layer of gestural mark-making made on large sheets of mylar. The second plate features Mehretu’s signature painterly gesture: dark, yet soft and light-handed brush strokes, made in spit bite, sugar lift and open bite directly on the copper plate. All these elements are brought together in the proofing and printing process, creating a work with unique physical and tactile presence.

Printmaking has long been an important part of Mehretu’s œuvre, precisely because it allows such radical experiments with the construction of images. The various processes allow Mehretu to take the many elements of the work apart, looking at them individually, in a way impossible in painting or drawing. In Epigraph, Damascus, Mehretu has developed a practice and vocabulary that has allowed her to build deep, dark density, combined with an effortless flow, in a composition that goes far beyond traditional printmaking.

Print technique
Open bite Photogravure Spit bite aquatint Sugar lift aquatint on Hahnemühle Bütten 350g
Paper size 217 x 87 cm
Edition of 16
Printed by Julie Dam, Thomas Jennions
Published by BORCH Editions
Signed by:
Signed and numbered by the artist
Registration no
ID: JuM 16 001-1

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