Andrew Lambirth: Review of Stepping Stones for The Spectator

"[Tricia] Gillman (born 1951) is an artist who clearly loves paint and the games, both visual and philosophical, she can play with it. In the beautiful high-ceilinged white spaces of the APT Gallery in Deptford (open Thursdays to Sundays, 12 noon to 5 p.m.), Gillman’s paintings shine out joyfully and seductively.  She is showing a survey of 30 years’ work, from the bold gestures and saturated colours of the 1980s pieces ‘Como’ and ‘Carambola’, which owe something to the inspiration of Picasso and Matisse, to the richly inflected recent work, which brilliantly combines schematised outline drawing with fields of broken, mottled, subtle colour and complex texture.

Gillman uses the language of husbandry to describe her current working practice, referring to the canvas as a place where she can plant things and then dig them up and move them. She also refers to the process of filling up the canvas and emptying it out, as imagery grows dense and then spare, which sounds a little like breathing, or the cycle of seasons in a garden. This organic referencing is appropriate for an artist who likes to use leaves and trees, insects, birds and animals as motifs.

Although she is an abstract painter, Gillman will not hesitate to employ figurative imagery in her paintings, principally because she finds the resulting discomfort between the two languages immensely stimulating. Aside from references to the natural world, Gillman has also been raiding the imagery of ancient Egypt (an enthusiasm sparked by visiting the country), and her new canvases are staffed with ideographs, hierophants and details from Assyrian reliefs.

These fragments rub shoulders with part of a pattern from a William Morris wallpaper or an improvised stencil, and are then orchestrated with great skill, together with the blots, pours, spatters and various other abstract skirmishes which for her make up a typical painting. Daring to be decorative, through the process of consolidation Tricia Gillman translates her work to an altogether higher plane of aesthetic achievement. Recommended."

October 2011



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