international drawing annual 5 exhibition-in-print
online resource

Sonya Berg
Austin, Texas

University of Texas at Austin
MFA Candidate 2010

pages 50-53


In my recent work I make images of empty swimming pools. My drawings of the pools function as metaphors for containment, control of the landscape, the unknowable, and the void, both in a material and psychological sense. I look to provoke a sense of anxiety with figure/ground reversal and gestural drawing.

The pool images are about the emptiness, the space between the viewer and the far landscape, the void between the place where one stands and the edge of the chasm. I want to provoke a sense of fear and anxiety, as well as a sense of enclosure or entrapment. The concern of how deep is the deepest part, or what hides around the dark corner, or how to exit the pool or building can create apprehension. The pool can be dangerous and uninviting, or produce a sense of claustrophobia.

I make large graphite and charcoal drawings to enhance the feeling of deadness, emptiness, and abandonment. The simple black and white contrast functions as an abstract structure in which to consider composition and an emotive style of mark making. Formally, I attempt to contrast active and gestural marks with spaces that flatten out, and empty paper with areas covered in layers of graphite.

I am interested in creating a flip for the viewer between a deep perspective and a flattened space. I use figure/ground reversal and flatness as devices to unseat rational and believable space. This reversal is to enhance the viewer‚s emotional reaction to the work. All of the recent pool imagery positions the viewer in a centralized place with a one-point perspective. The viewer is solitary, stationary, and enveloped by the scene. I want the viewer to feel like he or she is standing on the bottom of the pool and must maneuver through the landscape to exit.

Drawing these images is a way for me to reflect on my own fears and personal anxieties, while also considering universal ideas of entrapment and abandonment. The drawing process is very important to my work, as I enjoy the tangibility of the graphite material, the immediacy of the mark making, and the meditation that develops from the repetition of drawing. The hand-touched quality of my work is integral to my process and imagery, as is the fragility of the graphite, charcoal and paper.



born:1982, Raleigh, North Carolina


Messiah College, BA, 2005
University of Texas at Austin, MFA, 2010

selected awards/honors

Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center, 2009
Martha Leipziger-Pearce Endowed Scholarship in Art, University of Texas at Austin, 2009
M. K. Hage Endowed Scholarship in Fine Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 2009
Georgia B. Lucas Foundation Fund, University of Texas at Austin, 2009

selected solo or two-person exhibits

ROY G BIV: Molly Burke and Sonya Berg, Columbus, OH, September 2010
Art Palace Gallery: Sonya Berg, Austin, TX, 2009
Philadelphia Cathedral: Lent Journey, Philadelphia, PA, 2008

selected group shows

Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center: Selections From the INDA 5, Cincinnati, OH, 2010
Creative Research Laboratory: MFA Thesis Show 2010, Austin, TX, 2010
Columbia College Gallery: Paper in Particular, Columbia, MO, 2008
The State Museum of Pennsylvania: Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2007, Harrisburg, PA, 2007

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