Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Artists Statement

My paintings and installations are designed to overwhelm, with monochrome repeating patterns that give illusions of sameness. Much as my chosen homes in Chinese cities may look homogeneous at first glance, yet are distinctive to those who live there, every portion of my paintings is variable. Influences include American abstraction, as well as Chinese contemporary ink and Japanese design.

Windows and pollution masks are barriers, lattices with illusions of transparency and safety, filters separating interior and exterior space. They keep out enemies and toxins, and allow select air and light through. Inside my paintings, thousands of words are printed, a texture that adds a new, sometimes conflicting, dimension to the images. Words fade in and out like memories and meanings that shift over time.

The sturdy, archival paper is commissioned in Thailand. Every sheet is made on bamboo screens, and varies slightly in size and shape; like most things handmade, the paper’s edges are irregular. So too are the painted architectural and industrial (mask) shapes; the effect is of instability and motion.

For a contemporary artist, the Cyanotype medium offers new possibilities to explore. The paints are photosensitive iron salts, originally used by architects as a way to reproduce their drawings. A pale green when freshly applied in semi-darkness, the resulting splashes and irregularities are part of the painting process. Every brushstroke is nearly invisible when fresh; the final dark blue appears only when artworks are developed in the hazy sunlight of China.