Mary Griffiths is known for making black drawings: abstract architectural notations and spatialities inscribed (scratched singly and uniquely over many weeks, using basic hand tools) upon dense, burnished layers of graphite.
Moving from the standardised confines of A4 paper that she has worked with in recent years, her new larger-scale works in Still Further make use of plywood, wooden board, and linoleum as surfaces to inscribe abstract drawings into. New materials feature for the first time alongside graphite, as she primes and treats these surfaces with gesso, gilding size, silver leaf, and shellac varnish. Consequently, Griffiths’ use of materials and techniques refers to panel painting, while continuing their lineage within a Modernist tradition of abstraction.
Her drawings owe their existence to a pre-occupation with the architectural, although they have no clear, ‘recognisable’ visual connection, and exist as purely spatial representations. Some of the references drawn on by Griffiths hold a personal significance for her, and we see this through the intense repetition of line and depth created in the work; inscriptions that map a history, life and resonance of a space, alongside its structure. The titles of the works offer something of this history, and serve to remind the artist of something specific within the process of each drawing's unique making.
Griffiths interest lies in the idea of drawings as objects; how space, engineered structures, and surfaces play a role in the creation of the drawing; and how the use of materials creates a depth of reflection within these surfaces. The ‘mirror’ effect she creates through her choice of materials recalls the tarnished silver of the daguerreotype, and an axis of further and closer is added to the two-dimensional co-ordinates of height and width. Inscribing lines on these covered planes, the incisions cut through the blackness and silvery whiteness, catch the light and take on a luminosity. There is a depth of black created by the graphite, but also a reflected white light glare, even further pronounced in the new inclusion of silver leaf as a material. This element of opposition is most evident in her diptych panels with black graphite and the white shimmer of silver leaf jostling against each other.
When approached by the viewer the ‘still’ drawings become activated, the inscribed lines and mirrored surfaces refusing a single viewpoint, compelling the body and eye to shift. Burnished, tarnished, varnished; these reflective, inscribed panel works become prismatic and jewel-like objects.
Mary Griffiths (b. 1965, UK) is based in Manchester, and graduated from MA Fine Art at Manchester School of Art in 2009. Griffiths is also Curator of Modern Art at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, where she has been in post since 2000.
Griffiths acclaimed solo exhibition Fathom, took place at Bureau in 2012, and in Rangefinder (2014) she showed new work that came from her residency at PS Mirabel, Manchester. Selected group exhibitions include: The Black and White Room, curated by Cornelia Parker as part of the Summer Exhibition, The Royal Academy, London; In Conversation, Touchstones Rochdale; The Drawing Project, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2014); Tip of the Iceberg: Art from Up North, Contemporary Art Society, London; The Manchester Contemporary, with Bureau; Some Recent Examples, Sevendale House, Manchester (2013); Cabedal, Plataforma Revólver, Lisbon; The Manchester Contemporary, art fair with Bureau (2012); Memory of a Hope, Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool; Workhouse, The Hive, Manchester (2011); This and That, Triple Base Gallery, San Francisco, USA; Four Artists from the Manchester School of Art, FAFA Gallery, Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, Finland (2009); Jerwood Drawing Prize 2008, Jerwood Space, London and touring UK (2008-09).
Her work was featured in the publication Drawing Paper (2012), and her monograph, Pictures of War, was published by Carcanet in 2009. Griffiths has works in a number of institutional and international private collections.