GILL ORD ‘Companions & Furrows’

4 – 28 April

a catalogue will be available with an essay by Tom Chamberlain

Gill Ord’s work is committed to a restless curiosity. I am often most drawn to it because I don’t know what it is I’m looking at, so trying to hold it steady enough to write something down is at once tantalising and frustrating. Her paintings and drawings have a resistance about them. There’s some repetition and geometry, some scaffolding that we might hold onto but it doesn’t really stand up; there’s near imagery we might recognise but it remains just that – near, but not here.

‘Light in painting’, a phrase she has used that connotes a coming to light, in her hands becomes a twilight that might give way to murkiness as much as illumination: to Goethe’s yellow sun or the slippery mud of its easy contamination. These paintings, like much of Ord’s work, come from trying to hold on to something by looking for the light. There is lightness here as well, of the kind that Italo Calvino speaks of in one of his 6 Memos for the Next Millenium, where knowledge of something dissolves its solidity, leading to a perception of the infinitely minute, light and mobile; this yellow mist, these shadows.

Some things are more weighted. In space that is at once precise and elusive, edges and apertures that are clear and decisively arrived at still carry the quiver and doubt of touch. Often they have a strangeness, a crookedness that has a meaning all of its own and that seems to be full of description without describing anything at all. Elsewhere they have the hardness of shadows and forms trying to find their place and interlock, or in paintings such as ‘Compañero’, a kind of architectural space that opens up in a hazy distance; rooms we discover we are already in. In our encounter with the work, it’s as if the light that falls across the wall becomes colour as the painting interrupts it, and swirls of dust are made visible and rearranged for a rectangle.

Ord’s paintings often connote plans, diagrams and things we might come to know, but their elements combine only to conjure a world stirring. She eschews the overview for the kind of blindness that sees with the tips of its fingers. Up close is where we too can fall into them.

Unless you put your nose to the glass, the high set windows in the studio that she has worked in since 1994 only reveal the sky. Not a vista so much as like being inside a camera. Ord’s openness has led her to numerous residencies. It seems significant that they have all revolved around a similar attentiveness to light; in southern Spain, Susak in Croatia, the west coast of Ireland, and notably in paintings made in the murk of crypts and catacombs in Rome. As titles such as Cabal and Camarilla suggest, these paintings possess an inherent mystery and a slowly pervasive resonance. They are at once stubbornly themselves and something beyond themselves, as generous and as entangled and intractable as companionship, as proximity, as being in the dark.

According to Goethe, yellow ‘produces a very disagreeable effect if it is sullied’. Sully on.