BLANK SPACE is pleased to present Desire Lines, the second solo exhibition by Debra Ramsay with the gallery. Ramsay locates the foundation of her work in “primitive mathematics and spatial relationships. It’s an idiosyncratic engagement with a rule-based system to generate form, shape and coherence.” With Desire Lines, Ramsay reaffirms her commitment to drawing and painting within a reductive system, while allowing a level of uncertainty and unconventionality to inflect the mark making.
Desire Lines brings together bodies of work that represent Ramsay’s ongoing explorations of line, one of the most ancient and most powerful means of artistic expression. The term "Desire Lines" comes from landscape architecture, where it refers to the paths people create through an internal logic, an intuitive understanding of movement through space, ignoring the imposed directive of pavement and concrete.
This interplay of the constructed and the intuitive informs Desire Lines. Starting within a predetermined system, Ramsay loosens control on the actual mark making, allowing the inherent properties and demands of the materials – molten, pigmented wax; fragments of eggshell; thread partially impressed into wax fields on handmade paper -- to create their own desire lines. “I have only limited control when I break the eggshells, or pour the wax, or embed the thread. I direct the line up to a point, and then have to release it to go its own way.”
In the “Calculated Perceptions” series, Ramsay explores balance, both measured and perceived, between horizontal fields of graphite wax and eggshell on a single panel. As the divisions in each painting progress from none through variations on sixths, thirds, and halves, the sequence as a whole underscores the shifting sense of balance created by the placement and relative weight of the horizontal bands. A powerful sense of line emerges from the bands themselves and from the interaction between adjacent fields.
For the “Pouring Over Time” series, Ramsay developed a methodology based on a fixed linear constant: time. Each panel is divided into six columns, representing the two-digit numerals of the month, day, and year of the painting’s title. Those numbers determine the number of times a line of poured wax will start in that column, thereby encoding the date in the painting. The starting point of each poured line retains the hard edge determined by the original division. Ramsay allows the effect of gravity on the molten wax to direct the quality of the line, and this new line creates its own representation of the time of its making.
In some pieces in this series, the dates themselves bear symbolic weight. In "Gratitude for Agnes Martin,” the pink and gray palette of Martin’s "Gratitude," reappears, here encoding the date of her birth in a similar pink and the date of her passing in a similar gray, all on a white background.
Ramsay is a New York-based artist, educated at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and Oregon State University. Her work has been featured in a number of solo and group exhibitions, including “Doppler Stop,” an exhibition currently traveling to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin and Zagreb. Her work is part of public collections such as: Ritz-Carlton (Dubai), Alliance Bernstein (New York), 9/11 Memorial Museum (New York); and private collections in (among others) London, Seoul, Seattle, and Santa Fe.