Even before Nolli Map of Rome famously rendered interior public spaces of that city as parts of the open civic landscape, basic figure-and-ground maps have told complex stories with great depth in black-and-white form on paper, canvas and papyrus.
Treating solids as a kind of typography, French artist Armelle Carnon created a series of poster-style flat wall prints that seek order in the chaotic spirals, winding alleys and misshapen squares of famous cities. A strange and unique, but surprisingly alphabet-like, result emerges.
Berlin, Istanbul, Tamarac and Paris are all recognizable to many from the composite shape of the solids and voids visible on a map, but, surprisingly, those same shapes are meaningful, comprehensible and perhaps even identifiable via the ordered parts alone.
“This work was first of all a way to understand the city of Berlin where I was in residence,” says Caron. “I redesigned it, then ordered it in another way to create a new typology. The double plan graphic game appealed to me and I started to rather compulsively organize other cities which offered different designs. The question then was: if I disturb the place, what becomes of it? If I play writing with a city image, does it become readable? Having said that, I won’t talk about fragments, I consider the drawing as a set made up of singular entities. Each city block becomes a full and autonomous graphic form. So I can manipulate them, change their orientation, move them. I seek for each shape the only obvious place in my typology.”
A similarly styled poster is available for sale on the site, “all black, it is at first reminiscent of the test and its Rorschach inkblots drawing various shapes to interpret. Then we see that the planisphere was dismantled, disassembled, as is done for a mechanical. These pieces of a complex motor, different countries and islands that constitute it are carefully aligned: Armelle Caron invites us to a flattening of our world, literally as figuratively, because dismantling graph suggests to reconsider the collective representation, particularly fixed and arbitrary we have geography. Placed next to each other, countries appear to us very differently indeed.”
Other work by Carnon likewise probe hidden depths of city streets and spaces via figure/ground variants, like cut-and-framed relief pieces which, though white on white, use shadow to contrast one type with its opposite.