Lemonade: Letters to Art

Bridie Gillman: Wash Over Me

I am not exactly sure why, but each time I look at Bridie Gillman’s work I find myself caught in a deep sense of ease and familiarity. I am reminded of calm afternoon hikes, the cold shock of plunging into the ocean or an absorbed search for intact shells when wandering the seashore.

Her work harkens an experience that has been had. One so burrowed in my psyche that it catches on the tip of my tongue before I can recall its exact time or place. Perhaps this is due to the artist’s striking ability to evoke the sense of connectedness one feels when embedded in the natural world. It is that remembered feeling of surrendering oneself to all that exists beyond our human form, and the calm awe felt when relaxing into the expansive outdoors, that is evoked by her work.

Broad sweeps and strokes of colour track across a canvas. Trickles of watery paint forge their own downward path. The swirling gesture of a brushstroke nudges your focus and journeys you across the slippery and spontaneous surfaces of Gillman’s latest exhibition, Wash Over Me, at Edwina Corlette.

There is no question that Gillman has once again reminded us of her ability to evoke the tension that lies between a felt experience and a distant memory of the vast Australian landscape. With her lush use of natural colour and instinctive application, each work employs swathes of paint that patch themselves into an abstracted landscape: a landscape where you cannot see the leaves, but you can sense their rustle; a landscape where the sun’s position is indiscernible, yet you are assured its white light seeps through dry brushstrokes.

At the front of the gallery space, you are greeted with While the rain paused. Although small in scale (62 x 51 cm), this work is a visual treat, and one of the exhibition’s strongest. The canvas’ righthand corner relishes in the drenched application of paint, calling upon the material consistency of an oceanic landscape. Your vision is then teased with the slight brush of yellow and blue, which poke through curiously from the background. This little canvas captures more of an airy lightness than the artist’s prior work and references an increasing sureness in her painterly practice; to par things back and let them breathe.

The main gallery space continues to showcase Gillman’s knack for compositional balance, which unearths itself from the intuition of gestural painting. Moving along each canvas or clay form translates the affect of trekking through a fluctuating environment into the gallery. The light changes, the wind picks up, vegetation becomes dense, until it eventually opens and reveals an expansive terrain, as seen in the panoramic work, A grey line in the sky.

Works such as We’re closer to the sun, up here pull you in with their intensity of colour. In this case, shades of a writhing blue that simmer at the surface. Others like Mottled hum softly in their quiet pastel palette, and only faintly reference intensity with a singular mark of deep blue.

When speaking to Edwina Corlette, the gallery’s director stated the increasing confidence and ability of the artist is apparent in these works. I could not agree more with this sentiment. A trust between artist and material emerges within this exhibition, as each work teeters between spontaneity and structure. Gillman’s mark-making jumps and swishes across each canvas, only to then slip onto clay forms, which are a recent material development for the artist.

Moreso than her previous exhibitions, an assurance is found in each work within Wash Over Me, and it is obvious that the artist savoured in the experience of constructing this exhibition. As a viewer, you are afforded the visual delight of trailing each brushstroke, acting as a trace of the physical act of painting. Following the exhibition’s title, the artist beckons us to join her in being affected, thoroughly, by the nuances of a landscape. Gillman asks us to “look closer, think broader, and feel deeper about things in the world around us”.

In all honesty, it is a true pleasure to review the work of Bridie Gillman. Her practice and presence are so seamlessly integrated into the Brisbane art scene, and her commitment to the community is evident and essential. From her consistently strong solo exhibitions at Edwina Corlette, to her persistence in supporting emerging artists as a founder of the artist run initiative Stable Art Space, her artistic voice is vital and burgeoning.

Taylor Hall is a curator, writer, and project manager based in Meanjin (Brisbane).