Is it possible to develop a drawing technique that senses its way into conceptual landscapes that could also become constructed forms? This is the latest series from an artist who has mined the edges of interior substrate and terra-forms. Patricia Smith’s drawing methods in pen and ink produce textural gradients that travel freely across these pathways between physical and sensible. Plot Plans of the official rendering lodged back into the plot unfolding within the micro-folds of life itself. In this case, the terror of natural or manmade disaster (Shelter in Place) meets up with the terror in simply being alive.
Cartography here is not the modern map of precise measurement, but reaches further back to a mapping that required a layering together of a range of informational resources with quasi-fictional figures. The bestiaries given shape in these older fantastical maps return once again, fleshy worlds melded with a harder terrain. Smith’s most recent series dedicated to shelter and sheltering evokes so much of the push and pull of biological life, taking account even of the terrors witnessed now on a daily basis, across mediated channels as they mesh with local hazards in her own dwelling places, Paris, New York, Rotterdam. All this recent tragedy is interspersed with life and matter on a geological scale, one that predates language, the very moorings of anatomical vestiges that are carried within each organism.
While examining each Plot Plan, it begins to feel that each must be studied like a Codex, scanning closely for secrets that lay hidden. It starts with breaking out from the original form with small gestures, finding the technique to generate cartographies that can function on multiple levels at once, both beneath the street, and below the skin. This mode of art making has moved into installations and site-specific work, so it is natural that it would continue to take over other materials and forms along the way, including plan renderings for architectural structures.
For this project, she hired an architect to produce renderings of several of her designs, while she herself is the architect and master planner. It has introduced several changes by forcing her bio-morphic ambiguities of scale into the stretched grid overlay of a CAD drawing. The stretching sense of scale suddenly has actual dimensions notated, and a plan that could potentially be built. This continues to remain a conceptual strategy that questions among other things, where are we actually? It is this rigorous mode of thinking through works of art that Gilles Deleuze considered to be the more desired outcome of philosophy.
excerpts from the catalog essay, What immensities do flow from objects fashioned with openings
by Sarah K. Stanley *