From Michelangelo to Georgia O’Keefe to Banksy, artists throughout history have sometimes destroyed their own works. Yet when Julia hamilton lights his drawings on fire, it is not an act of destruction, but of creation.
Why set art on fire if not destroy it? âIt creates texture and adds a bit of chaos to the room,â says Hamilton. “I used to do really, really tight line art, and for me it’s kind of a freedom to embrace the chaos a little bit.”
A collection of his drawings, created with alcohol-based ink and then set on fire, is due to appear on the gallery display wall at Worthington’s Highline Coffee Co. in October. Hamilton says she actually worked with alcohol ink for 10 or 15 years before she thought about adding flames to the process. âThen I saw people set fire to their alcohol inks,â recalls the artist. “And it’s like, ‘Oh, that sounds fun!'”
Find more local artists:Subscribe to the Columbus Monthly weekly newsletter
Hamilton’s first fiery works were 6-by-6-inch pieces like the ones she will show at Highline. She then tried to adapt the same process to a larger room (3ft by 3ft) and immediately realized that she needed to take a more careful approach. âIt’s pretty scary to see something so big on fire with such big flames,â she said. As a result, in addition to working outside and keeping a fire extinguisher handy, she now divides her larger pieces into sections and only ignites one area at a time.
Highline owner Christie Bruffy said the cafe began exhibiting artwork shortly after it opened in October 2015. As of January of this year, the task of filling her gallery wall has been given to curator Rebecca Burdock, an artist in her own right, who first met each other. with Hamilton’s work when the two were featured in an Ohio Art League exhibition several years ago. However, it wasn’t until she invited Hamilton to show Highline that she discovered her unorthodox technique.
âHis pieces look so refined and intricate that knowing it starts with fire and such chaos is fascinating,â says Burdock.
Fire is not the only thing that sets Hamilton’s art apart. She also suffers from synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes her to associate specific colors or shapes with things such as letters, numbers, months, years, or music. Indeed, she sometimes undertakes to create works inspired by certain songs. She knows she has managed to capture the essence of a song when “every time I look at this painting, this song comes to mind.”
Whatever the inspiration for his work, the artist emphasizes that not everything is related to fire. For example, she doesn’t use it on a 9-foot-wide triptych that she recently started creating to commemorate victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, fire has become a technique of choice for her, and it will be featured in each of the 32 drawings in her exhibition at Highline.
âI think it will be fascinating,â says Burdock. “I can not wait to see it.”
Julia Hamilton’s works will be on display until October 31 at Highline Coffee Co., 693 High St., Worthington, 614-992-2899 or highlinecoffeeco.com.
This story is from the September 2021 issue of Columbus monthly.