Roadtrip: Marie Harnett and Kristian Evju at the Albers Foundation

Kristian Evju and Marie Harnett at the Josef + Anni Albers Foundation

Contributed by Sharon Butler and Stephanie Theodore / This spring, we visited Marie Harnett, a London artist who was in residence at the Josef + Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut, and her visiting guest, Kristian Evju. During a two-month residency, Marie worked steadily on a series of highly detailed graphite drawings based on altered images from films. Unlike other programs, the Albers residency is all about work, which suited Marie (and Kristian while he was there), whose drawing practice is extremely labor-intensive and requires extraordinary focus. The Albers didn’t envision group meals, camaraderie, or cocktail parties, but rather time, space, and solitude. The residents also have access to the Albers’ archives and library, which are located in a bunker-like building down the winding dirt driveway. 

A view from the sleeping loft

Marie graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2006, and had her first solo in London at Alan Cristea Gallery in 2009. Stephanie saw the show and, impressed with Marie’s detailed photorealist drawings, eventually invited her to show at Theodore:Art. The 2013 group exhibition, “Notorious,” was followed in 2017 by the first solo exhibition Marie had in the US. Sharon had met both Kristian and Marie several years earlier when Sharon was a visiting artist at the Vytlacil Residency Program, so it was a good opportunity for us all to catch up.

Conversation: Stephanie, Marie, and Kristian discus Marie’s new work.
Although Marie was the official resident, Kristian was visiting from London for a couple weeks while we were there, and he had set up his own work area in the far corner.
This is one of the drawings Kristian was working on during his visit. He takes found vintage photographs, combines them in enigmatic and unpredictable ways, and uses them as the basis for his graphite drawings.
Kristian’s pencils and other tools in the easel shelf.
Marie had just started this new drawing when we arrived. She masked the image area with drafting tape, and if you look closely in the center of the board, you can see the beginning of her new drawing, which is based on the photograph taped above the work area.

Marie watches movie trailers frame-by-frame to find her images. She doesn’t pay attention to the plot, but only to the images, which she says are full of ambiguous narrative potential. She never watches the films. Ever.

Both artists use high-powered magnifier glasses (and extremely sharp pencils) to get the smallest details right.
The house features a reading corner with this curved modern chair, woven with worn leather strips, and a wood stove. Although we didn’t stop in on this visit, the main house has an amazing collection of furniture, textiles, and art created by Anni and Josef Albers, and the residents’ houses have a few interesting pieces, too.
Finished work: Marie Harnett, That’s Not a Game I Play, 2018, graphite on paper, Paper 13.2 x 19.2 cm / Image 6.4 x 15.0 cm (Images of artwork courtesy Marie Harnett and Alan Cristea Gallery, London)
Finished work: Marie Harnett, Read, 2019, graphite on paper, Paper 12.7 x 18.8 cm / Image 7.75 x 10.3 cm (Images of artwork courtesy Marie Harnett and Alan Cristea Gallery, London)
Finished work: Marie Harnett, Lavender Lane, 2018, graphite on paper, Paper 12.7 x 18.8 cm / Image 7.75 x 10.3 cm (Images of artwork courtesy Marie Harnett and Alan Cristea Gallery, London)
Finished work: Marie Harnett, Juliet and Dawsey, 2018, graphite on paper, Paper 12.7 x 18.8 cm / Image 7.75 x 10.3 cm (Images of artwork courtesy Marie Harnett and Alan Cristea Gallery, London)
finished work: Marie Harnett, Dawsey, 2018, graphite on paper, Paper 12.7 x 18.8 cm / Image 7.75 x 10.3 cm (Images of artwork courtesy Marie Harnett and Alan Cristea Gallery, London)

During the residency, Marie was exploring the notion of a faceless figure, different painting approaches, and experimental sewing projects. A table in a corner served as a worksite for a series of small paintings on paper, and Marie told us that she found working with paint, color, and brushes infinitely more complex (and more nerve-wracking) than the relatively simple process of drawing. At night she worked on sewing, both with machine and hand stitching.

Marie’s painting table.
We brought pies and grape leaves for lunch from Stephanie’s favorite bakery in Sunnyside. There were plenty of leftovers, which was a good thing because they were responsible for preparing their own food, which meant leaving the compound every few days.

The Albers property covers several quiet acres with wooded walks and a lovely pond. In 2016, we drove out there to select art work from then-resident Pierre Mabille for “Deux Côtés,” a group show at Theodore:Art that later traveled to Galerie Jean Fournier in Paris. But this time our visit coincided with such a lovely spring day that after lunch we took a walk, beyond the archive building, past soon-to-be-planted garden, and down to the pond.

Kristian, Marie, and Stephanie out in the woods.
The concrete building where the Albers archive is stored.
The garden
Pondside: Here we are examining the rustic handmade chaise lounges to figure out how to raise the backs.  Left to right: Kristian, Sharon, Marie
In the middle of the pond, at the top on the right, you can see an island where the Albers planted two sturdy pine trees.
Surrounded by rustling evergreens
We sat on a bench and contemplated the birds as they landed on the pond, talked about Josef and Anni Albers and the enormous contribution they made to the art world. We also covered history, politics (Brexit–WTF?), and science fiction. What a beautiful day! Left to right: Marie, Kristian, Sharon.
Pile of fire wood or sculpture?
The view of the house as we headed back to the city.

The Josef + Anni Albers Foundation Residency Program, Bethany, Connecticut.

Stay tuned for our next Roadtrip feature–somewhere in or near the Catskills.

About the Authors:

 In 2010 Stephanie Theodore founded Theodore:Art, a contemporary art gallery and consultancy, presenting exhibitions of works by emerging and established artists from the UK, EU and the US. The gallery is located at 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Sharon Butler is the publisher of Two Coats of Paint and is affiliated with Theodore:Art, where she had a solo show in 2018.

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