• Gillian Holding

Figures and abstraction

One of the paintings showing at Artifact, 84 Orchard Street, New York from 13 January 2021

Painting process for me is about finding balance between all sorts of tensions: strong colour v monochromatic; painting v drawing; working within a single session (alla prima) v repeated iterations and working over months; and above all figurative painting v abstract painting.


I need the freedom of abstract painting because it liberates me from the pressure of exactitude. From early on in life I could rapidly draw a likeness, and it's an easy way to superficial success. But capturing the world accurately through drawing is just a tool on the journey towards good painting. The paint needs to do the work, and that means letting go. If the image is half lost within an abstract framing, the paint can show itself, and the figure is almost completely subordinated to form and colour. From the perspective of the viewer, the wonders of pareidolia take care of the rest. Our brains are wired to read visual clues and find images of human forms everywhere, and there's satisfaction in "reading" the form.


How the tension is built up and why the figures are even there in this way is the subject for my next blog post.

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