Comes Together for Amelia Briggs
Red Arrow Gallery | August 12–September 3
WORDS Megan Kelley
We are not together yet comes together, joining paintings, drawings, and installation work by Amelia Briggs into a cohesive and complex body of work showcased at Red Arrow Gallery.
Most commanding could be the Inflatables, Briggs’s series of oil and acrylic paintings worked on top of meticulous constructions of stuffed fabric and faux fur on panels. Briggs invests heavily in the sculptural process of creating the canvases, treating them as objects first, devoid of any visual intention or plan. “It’s completely separate from thinking about painting.”
Her focus rests entirely on the process-based work of transforming disparate elements of reclaimed fabrics and faux furs into shapes that read as singular creatures when mounted, covered finally in a polycrylic and acrylic Liquitex mixture that stiffens the surface and gives visual cohesiveness. They wait, golems of blank shape whose foreheads have not yet been marked.
What begins with intention now turns to instinct. After existing with the canvas as its own shape, Briggs moves into composition and creation. Her process often culls clippings of lines from old coloring books and cartoons, piecing together elements into larger, loose collages that eventually serve as memory references for the lines she mimics, freehanded, onto the surfaces of the inflatables. The initial lines might begin in acrylic marker; oil paint moves across and atop their edges, hemming them in, pushing them out, adding definition.
“The appeal is to see how much you can strip away and still evoke [connections],” Briggs explains. “It’s a process of play.” The works finalize when “the hole becomes a whole,” that point of resolution where, just like living creatures, nothing more could be added to the painting without the act taking away from their own agency as objects.
Delightfully, Briggs’s drawings also straddle the adolescence between image and object. Briggs has the originally digital sketches printed onto luxurious fabrics—silky faille and satin and crepe de chine, to name a few—and the results are intimate surfaces both delicate and heavily present. “I started [the drawings] as a way to think about the language I was using in painting, but I loved how they existed in fabric.”
Though flat, the printing process transforms Briggs’s narrow hieroglyphs beyond a visual plane. Like the paintings, they encroach unexpectedly as tactile objects that exist within the space you inhabit. Like a living being, they also exist within and display the realities of being manipulated by that environment. Conceptually, the work layers and loops in on itself. The lines of drawing exist because of the fabrication of weaving—of lines of thread—and the dissolving edges of a cloth’s cut are in turn also a series of unraveling lines, their own coiling edges evoking the semblance of some forgotten script.
In both drawings and paintings, Briggs notes the nature of the line work, their edges at once familiar and yet lurking at the edges of the indecipherable. They speak to ideas of identity formation and transformation, as notations locked in the moment of struggle to define themselves. “You are seeing something not yet fulfilled, seeing something mid-transformation.” To Briggs, these lines act as phrases within a lexicon written in cartoon squiggles and visual suggestion, stylized syllables in “this somewhat universal language, that operates as a signifier to something larger: how you can break it down and yet it still resonates.”
She notes the subtle ways that cartoons and coloring books—from visual suggestion to verbal choices— direct and shape the views of children, and she attends to the way that we never really stop relying on the necessity of contemporary fables to guide our continuing development: like the manipulated shapes and surfaces of the paintings themselves, how we as adults are still molded and formed by “the more complex [concepts] our media directs us towards.”
The works stutter in the twilight areas of the transition from childhood to adulthood, no longer two- dimensional, but as creatures inhabiting space with you, individuals in their own painted skins with their own partially articulated memories and mumbled stories. “They have their personality; they are objects that have lived their life with someone else, somewhere else, before joining you. They have an interior life you’ll never quite see. A part of them is always out of reach.”
We are not together yet opens August 12 and is on view through September 3 at Red Arrow Gallery, located within 919 Gallatin Avenue, #4, in Nashville. For more information, visit www.theredarrowgallery.com.