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Julia Fish

Entry – Borders and Corners

“ As in every perfect work of Architecture, a true proportion will be found to reign between
all the members which compose it… Those proportions will be the most beautiful which
it will be most difficult for the eye to detect.”

— Owen Jones, from The Grammar of Ornament, as cited in Oleg Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament

My work has led me to a directed, concurrent study of architecture and to the purpose, placement and function of surface ornamentation — or the determined absence of it — in relation to a given architectural structure. I entered into this study through an initial visit to Rome in 1996, which was then followed by a more extensive six-week residency and research trip in the fall of 1997, while on a Sabbatical Leave from teaching. During both visits I was attentive to various details and configurations of the ancient architectural sites in and near Rome, where I recognized a parallel experience to certain architectural forms found in my immediate environment in Chicago, forms which I had translated as images in paintings and drawings over the previous six years.

Although based on the modestly-sized, tiled entry of my home in Chicago, the preliminary drawings for the Entry paintings and drawings were influenced conceptually by visits to the Imperial Forum and Palatine Hill, the grounds of Hadrian’s Villa, and Baths of Caracalla, among several other sites in Rome. Given the repeated visits that the residency in Rome allowed, I began to more fully understand that the physical reality of the architectural fragments that I encountered proposed a meaning specific to the fragment itself. Together, the eight paintings, Entry [ Fragments ], examined these ideas and particularized a physical / psychological displacement through the ‘fiction” of making a fragment. Importantly, each of the four initial [ Fragments ] led me to postulate a second set of Entry paintings of identical size and orientation, allowing me to picture an inverse image to a painted subject: a theoretical image.

I returned to the Entry as a subject with renewed focus in the fall of 1999, initiated through a number of works on paper which served as studies for the next paintings. These were influenced, in part, by the experiences gathered from a brief period of travel to Vienna. Within a limited few days I was fortunate to see architectural works by Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos that were already of interest to me from prior reading; I was also introduced to work by other architects of that period, most significantly by Max Fabiani, and some recent / contemporary developments, including work by Elsa Prochazka. Persuasively, each of these these architects propose “contradictory” models of thinking. This brief encounter shifted and expanded my orientation to the familiar subject of the Entry. As occurred after my first visit to Rome – which clarified and re-directed what was already underway in the studio at that time – I once again recognized that there was more to be clearly seen, to “detect,” which then allowed productive recollection to generate further questions. Those questions led to the paintings Entry – Borders and Corners, Reconstructed, and Entry – South Border in Three Parts, among others completed between 1999 – 2001.

February, 2001