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Published on August 07, 2023

Marina Kassianidou

Between May 11 and June 7, 2022, I was a resident artist at The Studios at MASS MoCA (a residency generously supported by the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Culture). While there, I spent countless hours with Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, presented as part of his wall drawing retrospective at the museum. In the past, I had seen individual drawings at museums and art institutions all over the world, always pausing before them, reading their instructions, connecting the words with the drawings, resonating with their internal logic that is at once simple, specific, and concise (when given in words) and complex, expansive, and unexpected (when translated into drawings).     

At MASS MoCA, I was drawn to the graphite and colored pencil wall drawings, returning to them almost every day. Their instructions are deceptively straightforward, just a few sentences long. In the making of the drawings, the instructions unfold, turning into intricate webs of lines that vibrate. From far away, the individual lines are almost imperceptible, a hazy veil on the wall, sometimes giving a suggestion of space or form. Walking closer to them results in a perceptual change with the veil gradually resolving into its component lines. Standing right up against the wall makes visible the subtle variations in line quality and the interaction of the graphite or colored pencil with the slightly textured surface. The drawings keep unfolding through space and time. As a group, they speak to commitment—systematically repeating words and lines, searching for all possible variations, following the logic exactly and absolutely and almost exhausting it in the process.

I began working on the series Envelope Letters during the shelter-at-home order in April 2020. Not having access to my studio and needing to keep working, I began making/writing a series of works/letters using materials I had at home: plain 8.5 x 11-inch photocopier paper—on which I drew lines to turn it into lined paper—and used security envelopes that I had been collecting for years. These envelopes have printed patterns on their interior surface to protect their contents. I approached these patterns as found marks, marks that, perhaps paradoxically, are not meant to be seen but rather to hide; they are made to exist in the unseen interior of a surface. The “text” in my letters consisted of collaged envelope strips, turning the various security patterns into a form of language that depended on visual rhythms.

After making the first work, I made a second, then a third, then a fourth; three years later, I keep making them. I use the same basic premise for each one: take an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper, draw lines on it to turn it into lined paper, cut strips of found security envelopes (the same width and length as the lines on the paper), glue them on all the lines. Variation is introduced in the selection and ordering of the strips. The process is simple, but it unfolds into multiple possibilities. In their entirety, the works embody time, care, and a narrative of repeated making, where each work/letter leads to the next. I realize now that I may find myself searching for all possible variations, following my initial premise exactly and absolutely. Perhaps I will almost exhaust it in the process, if I keep making these works thirty-five years into the future.