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Graphite Drawings Depict City Grids, Flight Paths, and Data Flow

London-based artist Emma McNally debuts an intricate new series of carbon drawings at 20th Biennale of Sydney.

by DJ Pangburn
Mar 10 2016, 7:55pm

Detail of Choral Fields 8. Images courtesy of the artist

Fly over a city at night, and the dense network of lights look like the sky’s constellations, miniaturized and mapped onto Earth’s topography, or circuit boards magnified and illuminated. London-based artist Emma McNally evokes these visible pathways, as well as the more invisible ones like data flow and flight paths, in her intricate, machine-like drawings. McNally will show Choral Fields 1-12, an ongoing series of these graphite (carbon) drawings, which at the the upcoming 20th Biennale of Sydney.

“The first six drawings (2m x 3m) were produced for Mirrorcity: London Artists on Fiction and Reality at Hayward Gallery, London,” McNally tells The Creators Project. “I have produced another six in the last five months to create a series of 12 drawings, Choral Fields 1-12, which will be installed on Cockatoo Island as part of the Embassy of the Real.”

Detail of Choral Fields 8

“The 20th Biennale of Sydney is constructed around a constellation of 'Embassies of Thought' under the umbrella 'The Future is already here—It's just not evenly distributed,' quoted from William Gibson,” McNally adds. For Embassies of the Real, the Biennale sought out artists like McNally who explore the perception of reality, the spaces between the virtual and physical, and the physicality of the human body in the digital era.

Choral Fields 1-6 were created in a studio by the River Thames at London's West India Dock, a place known for point of convergence for water, boats, traffic, planes, telecommunications, banking, and glass-and-steel skyscrapers. McNally aimed for the drawings to represent the ebb and flow of the Thames, as well as the city’s pulsating rhythms. Mirroring the carbon-based lifeforms on Earth, she used the crystalline form of carbon, graphite, to create the drawings.

Detail of Choral Fields 7

The latest entries in the Choral Fields drawings expand on McNally’s areas of interests. “The cycles of carbon and water and the movements of weather are evoked,” McNally adds. “The most recent work has pushed into tapestry or textile spaces a seamless fusion or weaving somewhere between text, textile, geology, weather, cartography, notation, etc.”

“All of the drawings are graphite pencil on paper and are made through a dynamic process of rhythmic mark-making and erasure, construction and deconstruction,” she adds. “Highly complex, heterogenous, enfolded cartographies emerge through this process that bring into relation spaces suggestive of technology, networks, the airborne, the sub-oceanic, morse, telecommunication, virus, cellular mitochondria, geology, aerial views of cities, the movements of code, data, plankton, astronomy, notation, etc.”

Detail of Choral Fields 11

That might sound like a lot to think about, but stare into Choral Fields drawings, and your mind can make all sorts of connections in those dense networks of rhythmic lines and erasures.

Detail of Choral Fields 11

The 20th Biennale of Sydney runs from March 18 to June 5. Click here to see more of Emma McNally’s work.

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