Exhibition: 19th April to 26th May 2012
Maddox Arts is proud to present ‘New Works’ by Sheila Girling. The nature of Sheila Girling’s work is elusive, but its immediate impact is both pleasurable and satisfying. First and foremost her delicate colour sense which can sing out on a high note or whisper in the softest key; secondly the rightness of her structures in the exact balance of the parts; and thirdly, the intensity of feeling with which every painting is imbued.
Take the painting with the grandest and most ambitious subject matter, ‘The Last Supper’. The inspiration came from seeing Leonardo’s ‘Last Supper’ in Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, but what she actually saw from a distant view was simply a shower of colourful shapes which she held in her head until she got back to her studio. The first impression is of a jumble of abstract shapes sprawling across the canvas, held back by a river of white paint, but gradually they mutate into figures seated at a long table, a vessel and a loaf of bread on the tablecloth.
In 2011 Girling made a group of still lives. ‘Vanitas for Audrey’ was a tribute to her sister who had recently died. She began with the traditional vanitas objects, the skull and the burning candle, but then gradually she included more intimate objects which were personal to Audrey’s life, the books, the jug, the baubles, the sheet of music, and the mandolin at the back which their father used to play. I should say at this point that all Girling’s paintings are in acrylic and collage on canvas. In this painting she selected first the dark green painted background colour and then collaged on the various objects, at the same time painting in the beads and the red rose on the left. ‘Memories are made’ is closely related to the ‘Vanitas’, continuing the theme of remembered objects on a table, here more abstracted and tightly composed.
The vertical still lives all came out of a small acrylic collage, one of a great number which Girling has enjoyed making. This particular ‘Untitled’ gave her the freedom to make use of the same shapes on a larger scale, and so she started work on the upright still lives, of which ‘Daytime Palace’, whose title is a quotation from a poem by Philip Larkin, is a prime example. In this painting she has magnified the elements from the small acrylic collage to form an interior with a view through a window. Against the background of dark squares and verticals she has set a single flower, a dark mauve and blue iris, its head silhouetted against the light-coloured square, its foliage abstracted into green blade-shaped leaves and solid forms indented on one side like a violin. This upright formula seems to me to be perfected in ‘A Room with a View’, in which the central bunch of flowers disintegrates into the light, scattering its dancing shapes to the winds.
With the small acrylic collages, the first of which was the trigger for the vertical still lives, Girling is enjoying playing with the shapes, some totally abstract, others enriched with a little figuration lest they become too sterile. As a group they oscillate gently on the borderline between abstraction and figuration. They may be small but their importance is disproportionately large, since they form the building blocks for many of her compositions. Finally, ‘Corfe’ and ‘Tamworth’, the last two of a series made with hand made paper. In these small collages Girling’s structural skills are to the fore, the placing of the textured shapes serenely achieved.