Painting is a strange body. Its two-sided condition, as both representation and object, means that it has become a shifting and conflictive entity in this age of the digital image, which is instead ubiquitous and immaterial. However, it is not unreasonable to consider that this mutant, physical and paradoxical trait is in fact what has allowed painting to survive, by ever attracting artists who seek to establish, based on the corporeal, new terms that can speak to our time.
The practice of the British artist Lydia Gifford (UK, 1979) explores this binary condition. Her works, or objects, can be thought of as stems that merge gesture, colour, matter and memory. It is hard to pinpoint where the pictorial ends and the sculptural begins. Both elements come together to form an expansive ecosystem in which the limits between them are blurred; the same phenomenon often occurs in natural landscapes.
In Shape I Know, Lydia Gifford's first exhibition inthe gallery, the artist offers a presentation of works in which this hybrid quality is made clear. Gifford's work takes us into tricky nooks and crannies, amid the materials, colours and textures. Her works encapsulate time, since they contain residues cultivated by the artist as part of her day-to-day processes: fabrics, rags, organic matter... The works are like layers of vegetation that cover the plains. Forms that are familiar, thought-provoking and geological, which invite the spectator to surrender to this gesture of abstraction. To reflect, calmly, rather than trying to decipher the meaning of the brushstrokes, painted upon the uneven surfaces.
Emphatic and poetic in their realisation, the selection of works we present in Shape I Know is not only an introduction to Lydia Gifford's art, but it is also a great opportunity to gauge the health of contemporary painting practice. Painting lives on, in the 21st century, by absorbing languages and material from adjacent disciplines, and it still offers visions as personal and meaningful as those found in the work of Gifford.
"The reduction of meaning to rhythm, insistence and form feels ever more resonant when so little else makes sense. I have reconnected with the work of Gertrude Stein in recent months. Intuitive meaning connecting to the body's movement feels entirety relevant. What has emerged for me is a kind of choreography that is driven by material and an understanding through movement. Simple repetitive action as an affirmation of being in oneself. Connecting to improvised, intuitive movement through something physical. Connecting to the intimate rhythm of breathing, of contemplation and contemplative movement. A rhythmic encounter, punctuating, with a sense of repetition and shifts. The body, vertical and horizontal, shifting, dividing, portioning, positioning. A use of language to conjure form, shape and movement without enforcing definition."
Lydia Gifford, January 2021.