Thom Sawyer


Julia's Garden: Language and Paint by Number

In the series Julia's Garden, natural materials coalesce into language through simple constructions of letters—straight or curved lengths of twigs, grasses, and flower petals form each letter, which, in turn, repeatedly form the word "Julia." As with all language, an abstract foundation is built upon to create a more complex system of communication. Shapes and lines, when specifically ordered, range from simple words and phrases to complex sentences and thoughts.

Mark making plays a critical, parallel role to that of language formation. Marks in this and other series are used directly with little, if any, rendering or modeling. Uninflected, they carry as much information as possible, combining with other marks to construct a greater complexity of form, space and light. In this way, mark making acts like the abstract building blocks of language: complexity is constructed through a simple, ordered system.

Such a process requires a high degree of focus: shape, line, mass, color, gesture and spatial relationships are all considered and combined into each mark. A dichotomy exists between this process of close observation and the final image, which often appears to have a strong graphic quality, as if the image came together in a single pass, or through a paint by number-like template. The ability of the paintings to flip back and forth across the boundary or edge between a flat surface and the illusion of depth, as well as abstraction and figuration, follows a similar dynamic found in language. The paintings and drawings of Julia's Garden attempt to underscore this connection, locating close parallels between different modes of communication and understanding.