Dreamhouse exhibition Oct 5 – 30, 2013, statement
To me, a Dreamhouse is a place of my own, a space for solitude, contemplation, quiet. This might take the form of an actual house, but could equally be a clearing in the bush, a childhood memory, or a private moment. A place where your thoughts are as free as your dreams.
Inspired by ideas stemming from Kate Grenville’s book Dreamhouse these paintings follow on from my previous work, but have evolved to represent my own movement towards pursuing my dreams. Figures are sparser, the landscape cleaner and more considered. Experimenting with Acrylic on Polyester instead of the heavily Gessoed boards I have used previously, I find the works have an open-ended quality that echoes my state of mind.
Painted while on a residency in the Byron Bay hinterland, these works reflect the colours, landscape and sense of place that inspired them.
Nina Miall, Introductory text to accompany Sequence Exhibition, Nov 13 – Dec 8, 2010
A figure stands on a chair in an uncertain pose, unstable, perhaps even suicidal. Although it is straight and tall, the figure resists the embodied, commanding presence of a statue. Instead it shifts contexts, appearing superimposed over a house or hovering untethered in space. It recurs in sequences, altering slightly in posture and assuming varying degrees of corporeality. At times its silhouette coheres into the concrete form of being; at other times it appears bleached out and barely there, a symbol of absence rather than presence. It suggests matter evolving into identity. It is a portrait of the artist.
Gina Bruce’s paintings and drawings are populated by pared-back figures, rapidly sketched and often existing in an indeterminate relationship to their surroundings. Some are recognisably the artist herself, thoughtful and self-questioning. Others are anonymous or abstracted, caught by loose and reductive brushwork, painted over and over again. Their economical, almost notational execution imbues these figures with a sense of transience and mutability. Subtle and suggestive, they are at once formal experiments into the play of light and shadow, and philosophical meditations on the precarious nature of subjectivity.
Time, and its passing, is a constant presence in Bruce’s work. Working with serial imagery, she explores how changing atmospheric circumstances – fleeting light, a passing shadow – affect a static subject. A series of timed observational studies examining the light and shade, positive and negative space, of her subject provides the preparatory work for Bruce’s paintings. She works quickly and intuitively, building up images through the expressive layering of washes of watercolour, ink or tempera; facial features are implied or omitted altogether, pentimenti are encouraged aninterplay with finished forms.
The immediacy of Bruce’s brushwork belies an intensive and carefully prescribed process with the artist often setting herself parameters – a restricted palette, a spare use of line, a time constraint – within which to explore the many imaginative possibilities presented by the composition. For the works in this exhibition, the underlying logic is that of the sequence. ‘I often work with sequences as I find they capture the ideas of ‘process’ and of ‘time passing’ which are central to my work’, Bruce says. Some works, such as ‘The Day Outside’ (2010), are diptychs, their meaning constituted by the visual correspondences and slippages that occur across and between the two images. Others are gridded sequences of up to thirty-six paintings, serving to record Bruce’s own systematic process as much as they represent the passing of light and shade over a subject. In both cases, each element in the sequence reinforces the formal and poetic intention of the artwork; none could be removed without this intention being altered.
A critical part of Bruce’s process is the making of the gesso and egg tempera medium, its laborious and methodical preparation grounding the artist’s practice in a daily routine and acting as a counterbalance to her rapid, intuitive application of paint. Bruce likens the experimental process of soaking the glue, mixing it with chalk, laying the gesso ground and combining the pigment and egg yolk for the tempera to a type of cooking, or alchemy. The effect is a subtly textured, almost powdery surface, dusted with tiny irregularities and lending the paint a slightly granular, mottled quality.
Shadows abound in Bruce’s works, their opacity and weight complicating the figure/ground relationship and introducing the possibility of metaphysical uncertainty. ‘I am attracted to the metaphysical aspect of shadows as explored by Morandi in his still lives, where the objects and shadows are often confused or ambiguous’, she says. In ‘Web-cam Shadows’ (2010), Bruce’s silhouette is a strongly delineated, reified presence which overshadows the artist herself; in ‘Self-Portrait Emerging’ it is a watery, washed-out stain. While Bruce is the model for many of her figures, she does not intend for them to be self-portraits in the iconic sense. Instead, their frequently schematic treatment invites generic questions about identity and existence to be extrapolated from the specific instance of the portrait of the artist.
Bruce’s recent works are investigations of sequence and seriality, matter and metaphysics, perception and process. Redolent with ambiguity, they explore the uncertainty and instability of the lone figure, paying particular attention to the traces it leaves behind.
Treelines and Shadows, Artist Profile Magazine, page 98, Issue 7 July 2009
Walking home each day from work, I passed a small, independent bookshop run by a cheery lady who was always eager to engage in conversation. She had a particular passion for Australian fiction and recommended many books to me. It was the middle of winter in the UK, and I was feeling disconnected and homesick. Through these books I saw glimpses of the landscapes of my childhood and my longing to return home increased.
It wasn’t just a visual preference for the wild Australian Bush over the ordered English landscape, it was much deeper. It involved my own sense of belonging. The eeriness of the Australian Bush was comforting, yet my convict ancestors came from this place called England. The Bush was what I knew and loved, walking through it was like nothing else, it was alive with noises and fresh with smells; sticks cracking, cicadas chirping, lizards flicking through the leaf litter, the gentle thumping of a kangaroos tail as it hops along, oblivious of your presence, and then there was the sense of something other, something more than what you can see, a strange presence, which may be the disturbing history this land has seen, something only the oldest trees would remember.
It was Kate Grenvilles book “The Secret River” which really resounded with me. It echoed thoughts that I had been having about my colonial ancestry as it explores themes of Australia’s colonial and indigenous past, inhabiting the Australian bush.
I came home and set to work on an exhibition of paintings that would be loosely based on this book “The Secret River” and on the landscape where I spent my childhood.
Treelines and Shadows, an exhibition of 16 egg tempera paintings on traditional chalk gesso was exhibited at the Robin Gibson Gallery in 2008. My next exhibition is planned for early 2010.
Christopher Allen, Walk the Line, The Australian Newspaper, 20th-21st Sept 2008
Excerpt from the 2 page article;
There are two other entries that simply make you want to go back and look at them again; always a good sign, since it tends to indicate that a work has real aesthetic and imaginative substance that cannot be easily summed up or written off.
One of these is Gina Bruce’s Self Portrait Emerging, once again a series of sheets, this time 30 tiny heads arranged in a 5 x 6 grid.
Some of these are no more than ovals broadly painted in goache, while others are just beginning to develop the forms of brow, nose and cheekbones. Bruce’s simple and modest work, with its limited palette and economical use of brushwork, compellingly evokes a sense of genesis, of matter evolving into identity.
John Macdonald, Natural Wonders, Sydney Morning Herald, April 23-24, 2005
At Robin Gibson’s, Gina Bruce (born 1977) shows a Fullbrook-like taste for soft, translucent edges and shadowy forms. There is, however, no sense of Fullbrook’s use of colour – Bruce’s work is almost monochrome, painted in fine inflections of black, white and grey. Her motifs are public statues and monuments rendered soft and fluid by a watercolour technique that strips away detail, leaving only a suggestive stain on a piece of white paper. Her oil paintings strive for a similar effect, but are less ethereal, and ultimately less convincing.
Bruce is a young artist who has made striking progress over the past few years by paring away everything that is extraneous to the image she wants to capture. In doing so, she has settled into a style that has echoes of Ken Whisson or Leonard Brown, but draws its inspiration from close observation of the way forms are defined and concealed by the action of light and shadow.
These are slow pictures that grow steadily more engaging as one spends time in their presence, and this is always a good sign.
Excerpt from the two page article “Natural Wonders”, Sydney Morning Herald, April 23-24, 2005
Dominique Angeloro, Critics Picks, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 13-19, 2004
Walking into an installation of Gina Bruce’s paintings is like stumbling across a control centre of surveillance feeds. Her solo exhibition City Sequence includes hundreds of small panels that track the movements of city pedestrians from a height. Bruce uses black tempera on a white gesso-primed board and swift calligraphy-like brushstrokes to capture the doppelganger effect of people and their shadows. One remarkable piece comprises 144 panels. If not only denotes events, but also functions as an inscription of time – the artist has sketched each of the city scenes at five-minute intervals.