Gillian Willans: and light she lingers as your hostess – Review – curious arts

Afternoon Delight painting by Gillian Willans

Slip into another time at Gillian Willans’ exhibition And light she lingers as your hostess. This collection of still scenes, presented by Scott Gallery at 10411 124 St, invites viewers to investigate intimate snapshots of domesticity. These pieces originate from a feminine gaze, creating a gendered perspective which invites us to contemplate with the artist as she digests her own relationships to the home and its tangled interconnections to constructing autonomy. 

“What if I told you I haven’t slept in 4 years,” Gillian asks. Explaining that “having children has exposed an idealized maternal inheritance,” one passed on genetically as well as through “role models and archetypes.” Once exposed, these differences between what should be and what is, become undeniable and unavoidable.

As a painter Gillian’s art form depends upon closely examining her subject, dissecting the structures of perception she will need to redirect as she constructs her own image. This is a skill she has honed over decades and now directs to the most intimate of subjects: the home. Her journey into the place of wife and mother takes this artistic examination of place and identity to new, intimate, heights — elevating the work to a place Gillian’s earlier paintings did not reach. She is no longer looking at her subject from the outside but experiencing it from within. 

Gillian Willans paintings

Gillian Willans paintings

This suite of paintings explores the presentation of our most intimate selves. Highlighting the battle between the interior and the exterior. How we choose to present identity vs reality. Each piece represents an archetype or ideal of middle-class households presented to women during the 19th and 20th centuries. Originating from black and white photographs these images are then reinterpreted into this new medium using color and hue entirely created by the artists.

“My subjective truths are sensory, like textures and sounds, and sights; they are what my memory retains.” These sensory elements are what Gillian imprints upon her canvas as she selects the exact shades of colour or hue light, and as she fabricated the borders of each composition. Each choice acts as a means of injecting her own memories and interpretations into a scene, but also as a playground for Gillian to negotiate her own expectations.

Like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking Glass, Gillian contemplates her “longing to belong in the present room” and her consciousness of the “illusion” which would be broken upon returning to “wonderland” to find it not as her imagination had constructed it. Gillian does not begin from a place of resolved persuasion but scrutinizes the subject as she builds her impressions and opinions. As the formal, technical and aesthetic elements crystallize within each composition, small moments of discovery and surprise become rendered. This open attitude creates space within the show for viewers to see and ponder her subject without expectation.

Check out more of Gillian’s work at her official website.

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