Canadian artists Ilga Leimanis and Doreen Wittenbols met while studying at Concordia University in Montreal where they shared a studio together. Both artists moved to Europe over 10 years ago, and stared working together as Ortelius Drew in 2007. The project’s origins were loosely based on Phyllis Pearsall, the artist and businesswoman who single-handedly mapped out London and published the first “A-Z Atlas” in 1936. Following adventures through maps we were interested in deepening our connection to cartography: discovering Abraham Ortelius who was recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas the Theatre of the World.
Together we have participated in residencies, festivals, public drawing events. We have been commissioned to make site specific drawing installations, and have exhibited our work in London, Amsterdam, Cheltenham, Manchester and Berlin. We launched the Ortelius Drew European Tour in 2015, and are working on an artist book in collaboration with another artist and a poet.
Ortelius Drew is a collaborative, mobile, and performative drawing duo led by artists Doreen Wittenbols (Amsterdam) and Ilga Leimanis (London) since 2007. Taking the city as our principle subject matter, we focus on (public) settings of leisure such as gardens, parks, museum collections, restaurants, shops or temporary architecture and festivals. As present-day flâneurs, we move through the city establishing temporary, yet deeply empathetic and intimate relationships with all that we see – all the while conscious of both contemporary and historic gendering of public spaces.
Drawing our home cities of Amsterdam and London for many years, we decided to meet annually in other cities to expand our practice. In 2015, Ortelius Drew launched our European Tour, in Madrid, Spain, and in 2016 we met in Margate, UK. We would like to treat ArtRooms as an opportunity to expand our European Tour to Rome, where we plan to work from the city, hotel, gardens, and sculpture park, making an entire new series of drawings on site, and transforming the hotel room into a living studio where visitors can see us drawing all day. We have worked intensely and performatively like this before many times, producing an entire new series in a space of a few days: in our Madrid hotel room, a Margate dining room, at a Cheltenham curator’s home and publicly in a field in the middle of a busy festival.
We like to draw when traveling to record sights as social practice, exploring drawing from observation; sketching as conversation; working in multiples (eventually from memory), resulting in whimsical images. These drawings very often end up in public view, not far from where they were made, engaging a local audience with our work.
Thus far, our meetings have been self-financed and we find this an exciting opportunity, where our accommodation would be supported during the exhibition days. A fun element, may be to take inspiration from the hotel, its patterns and shapes, to make a large interior ‘collage’ over the furniture and floor, to serve as a backdrop for the smaller drawings we will be producing and then exhibiting in the room.