Dr Caroline Thew
MBBS FRACP PhD MVA MFA
Gillian Warden’s latest paintings in Lacuna are a testament to her commitment to the process of painting. Daily, she embarks on a journey in her studio as if from scratch. No mark is sacred. Paint stripper, orbital sander and encroaching opaque paint are used to prune, truncate and shape her previous work. “These paintings are the result of struggle,” she says.
But what is revealed by this “beautiful battle” are a series of organic, delicately filigreed shapes and patterns in luminescent colours. Branching forms float, unfurl and delicately wave. Marine gardens and igneous landscapes come to mind.
All shapes allude to the wonder of the natural world. The paintings arrive somewhere between heaven and earth. Interstellar nebulae juxtapose the microscopic. Iridescent wings flutter and settle. Their blood circulations remain anchored to their rocky supports, prevented from final rupture by a superimposed cocoon of downy, opaque over-painting.
Her dedication to the medium of paint, her excitement at revelations and new combinations, is underpinned by a series of exploratory devices. She begins by mixing colours on a large, flat palette from which she creates a monoprint directly on to the board or canvas. Sometimes paper is used to transfer these globular, textured shapes. Later prints are lighter and more delicate; the texture becomes a branching, lacy network.
Nothing is considered immiscible in this alchemist’s cauldron. Colours are combined and layered with translucent overprints of inks or paints, both water soluble and oil based, Further brush marks are added or overlaid to reveal or conceal these illusions. The magic is in what we are enabled to see. The multiple experiments of this venerable pursuit are documented in a series of jewel-like small works on board, finely finished and displayed en masse.
These paintings began life during Gillian’s Master of Fine Art at RMIT, entitled Facing Defacing and completed in 2012. The works were part of her process of leaving figuration behind in order to explore a more formless approach to painting.
This interim space has been productive and rewarding. Who knows what will happen as the emergent shapes and techniques branch away from their supports. The developments will continue to be worth watching.