Century's View | Jeanne Gaigher

Tue, October 30, 2018 to Sat, December 1, 2018

Trousers grow enormous and take on a life of their own, striding into the gallery space becoming columns to support an imaginary house and screens through which other works are viewed. Floor tiles, made from cut up and reconstituted painted scrim curtains, act as footnotes transferring visual information from one surface, and artwork, to another. In this new body of work, Jeanne Gaigher uses each painting as the blueprint for the next, repeating and augmenting subject matter, building up a situation in each frame and orchestrating a dialogue that unfolds across all of the works. She describes this as “one mass moving slowly, hypnotically, from side to side.”

Gaigher is interested in the fluidity of subject matter, and how, through the act of painting, she can expand an object’s meaning. She sees this process as “forcing action onto objects”. In this collection of paintings on canvas, scrim works and painted sculptural forms, Gaigher explores chance encounters with subject matter from her immediate surroundings, such as a table, a bed or clothing. She assigns attributes of change to these items and invites banal objects to take on surreal qualities and a myriad of possible meanings. Gaigher describes this as a form of “talking” to the textiles and paint: “pretend to be a green ray of light, a weather system morphing across the bed, a desperate fork.”

The idea of doubling is central in Gaigher’s work. Her characteristic method of applying painted scrim on top of an acrylic and ink basecoat builds up strata of information and movement within each work that she likens to chronophotography. However, rather than movement taking place on a linear temporal axis, in Gaigher’s paintings motion occurs between the layers of pigment and scrim, pushing outwards from the frame.

The sculptural paintings and installation are what Gaigher calls separated paintings; fragments that have broken free of the frame and become independent forms. While the scrim room dividers and curtain demarcate space, they also act as viewfinders through which to view other works, doubling the image again. Each painting further camouflages the original subject matter, refusing a fixed reading.

As we view the paintings and objects and attempt to decipher their meaning, we become aware of a figure occupying the scenes, moving about, as it were, within the house. Century is her name, and through her presence Gaigher draws us in to an elaborate game of viewing and being viewed; looking in, looking through, looking at, looking with, being looked at. Gaigher explains, “the viewer is watching someone else scratch at the surface of the rooms and objects – picking it apart, separating the colours and textures to see what it’s made of, working backwards, asking how it got here. I was thinking about something or someone looking and observing and translating on my behalf. I think there is knowledge transferred between me, Century and the chosen objects that, together, decides what the scenes will feel like.” Century acts as the host, personifying the domestic scenes, interrupting the spaces and inviting the viewer to share her gaze and decipher what she/we see
The earthy muted tones that Gaigher favours and returns to in this body of work diffuses the interior scenes with traces of nature and the outdoors. Her loose and expressive brush marks create a dramatic tension between movement and stasis which imbues Century with a brooding somnambulism.

Gaigher likens the large canvases in this show to screens through which to view the interior scenes, positioning the viewer on the outside looking in. But the sculptural paintings and installation configure the gallery itself as the parameters of the house, giving the viewer the impossible double vantage of being simultaneously outside and inside at the same time. As the title of the exhibition suggests, perception is a central theme in this body of work. When we look at Gaigher’s paintings and view Century in the scenes, we see her looking back at us, through the layers of material in the work and become locked in an eternal stare. Gaigher delights in these metaphysical riddles, playing with pigment and scrim to peel back the layers of reality and consider the shifting possibilities revealed.