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  • Writer's pictureLindsey de Roos

Julie Meheretu

Julie Mehretu an Ethiopian born artist, working in Harlem New York, creates multi-layered abstract paintings, that create their own landscapes, as each layer references time, space, and history. Since 2015, Mehretu has been working with new imagery that is heavily circulated and distorts the images. Whether that be through pixelation or blurring, she creates figurative ghosts that is continuously moving amongst the foreground and background of her pieces. In the work Howl, she reuses imperialist paintings of landscapes where mass-genocides occurred with the Charlottesville riots, and at a large scale, she drowns herself in these violent contexts to produce this type of mark making, that seems to be an active landscape or even an organism of its own. She humanises those circulating images, and reminds us that photography “has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events”. And we experience the pain and mayhem even when the images are blurred; a ghost still lives, and that spirit is still present. Mehretu creates her own form of neologism as she considers the role of colonial language and space. She goes beyond reforming and creates a whole new world that reflects our history, one of which western frameworks neglect. Julie Mehretu is not a South African artist, but she shares the diaspora. If anything this is a global movement of artists searching for spaces that reflect their history.


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