After her stay at the British School at Rome, Gill Ord brings paintings, made on site and in the studio, recording the subterranean spaces of the Eternal City.
Landscape and the buildings within it have always been a subject for Ord, but the challenge in a city of such bewildering shifts, misaligned strata of time and history, would never have been the straightforward recording of a landscape or architecture, the analysis of the visible; much more a question of archaeology, carrying up into the light, digging beneath the surface to unearth the forgotten.
It was in the depths of crypts and in excavations that Ord was able to map the fractured origins of the rowdy city above. Foundations built on foundations, roots and columns breaking through polite layers of geological or cultural time. History made present, time abutting time with space reconfigured, with the metropolis understood via its own necropolis.
The small paintings were made in situ, the crypt of San Nicola in Carcere, the Mithraeum of Ostia Antica. Back in the studio these themselves become foundations upon which the large paintings were built. And at this point, where what is seen (or contemplated) becomes what is reflected upon, a huge shift is made. Filtered by the processing intelligence, an observed landscape is changed into one of the mind. Importantly, it’s not a question of this-becomes-that, as if it’s the move from figuration into an abstracted scene that’s being charted. The small paintings are on show rather as footnotes, reference points to a particular time and a place. While the large paintings offer (perhaps) a tunnelling through the raw material not towards the light but to a clearer articulation of the darkness that honeycombs the city.
The three large paintings take us out of a definable time into their own present. They offer a palimpsest of forms and structures, a build-up of clearly layered forms in which what is underneath remains on show, in play – or fighting – against what is laid over it, and these awkward angular motifs – not repeated exactly from one painting to another, but certainly showing a strong family likeness – testify to some space of the imagination that is definitely subterranean. As far from geometry as they are from recognisable elements of the seen world, designed to disconcert, painted in colours that never quite match, (of course – why should they?), with a three-dimensionality that bewilders rather than settles, what has been witnessed becomes the raw material of a new, autonomous materiality; and as Ord re-structures the walls and pediments and aged tufa, we reconnect these shapes with cranial topographies, cellars and forms that twist and link in our head.
Gill Ord is an artist working in London, UK. She is also a founding member of Braziers International Artist’s Workshop and Supernormal Experimental Arts and Music Festival, and an advisor for Batroun Projects Lebanon. She has spoken Internationally on artist led projects, collaboration and artist exchange programmes.
From October to December 2014 Ord was in receipt of an Abbey Fellowship in Painting at the British School at Rome.
We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye -
A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road – erect -
And so of larger – Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star – come out – within -
The Bravest – grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -
Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.
Emily Dickinson, ‘We Grow Accustomed to the Dark’ 1862