- CUT & PASTE
An essay by Nina Miall on the art of Gina Bruce for the catalogue of her 2010 exhibition SEQUENCE
Perception and Process: An Introduction to the Work of Gina Bruce
A figure stands on a chair in an uncertain pose, unstable, perhaps even suicidal. Although it is straight and tall, the figure resists the embodied, commanding presence of a statue. Instead it shifts contexts, appearing superimposed over a house or hovering untethered in space. It recurs in sequences, altering slightly in posture and assuming varying degrees of corporeality. At times its silhouette coheres into the concrete form of being; at other times it appears bleached out and barely there, a symbol of absence rather than presence. It suggests matter evolving into identity. It is a portrait of the artist.
Gina Bruce’s paintings and drawings are populated by pared-back figures, rapidly sketched and often existing in an indeterminate relationship to their surroundings. Some are recognisably the artist herself, thoughtful and self-questioning. Others are anonymous or abstracted, caught by loose and reductive brushwork, painted over and over again. Their economical, almost notational execution imbues these figures with a sense of transience and mutability. Subtle and suggestive, they are at once formal experiments into the play of light and shadow, and philosophical meditations on the precarious nature of subjectivity.
Time, and its passing, is a constant presence in Bruce’s work. Working with serial imagery, she explores how changing atmospheric circumstances – fleeting light, a passing shadow – affect a static subject. A series of timed observational studies examining the light and shade, positive and negative space, of her subject provides the preparatory work for Bruce’s paintings. She works quickly and intuitively, building up images through the expressive layering of washes of watercolour, ink or tempera; facial features are implied or omitted altogether, pentimenti are encouraged aninterplay with finished forms.
The immediacy of Bruce’s brushwork belies an intensive and carefully prescribed process with the artist often setting herself parameters – a restricted palette, a spare use of line, a time constraint – within which to explore the many imaginative possibilities presented by the composition. For the works in this exhibition, the underlying logic is that of the sequence. ‘I often work with sequences as I find they capture the ideas of ‘process’ and of ‘time passing’ which are central to my work’, Bruce says. Some works, such as ‘The Day Outside’ (2010), are diptychs, their meaning constituted by the visual correspondences and slippages that occur across and between the two images. Others are gridded sequences of up to thirty-six paintings, serving to record Bruce’s own systematic process as much as they represent the passing of light and shade over a subject. In both cases, each element in the sequence reinforces the formal and poetic intention of the artwork; none could be removed without this intention being altered.
A critical part of Bruce’s process is the making of the gesso and egg tempera medium, its laborious and methodical preparation grounding the artist’s practice in a daily routine and acting as a counterbalance to her rapid, intuitive application of paint. Bruce likens the experimental process of soaking the glue, mixing it with chalk, laying the gesso ground and combining the pigment and egg yolk for the tempera to a type of cooking, or alchemy. The effect is a subtly textured, almost powdery surface, dusted with tiny irregularities and lending the paint a slightly granular, mottled quality.
Shadows abound in Bruce’s works, their opacity and weight complicating the figure/ground relationship and introducing the possibility of metaphysical uncertainty. ‘I am attracted to the metaphysical aspect of shadows as explored by Morandi in his still lives, where the objects and shadows are often confused or ambiguous’, she says. In ‘Web-cam Shadows’ (2010), Bruce’s silhouette is a strongly delineated, reified presence which overshadows the artist herself; in ‘Self-Portrait Emerging’ it is a watery, washed-out stain. While Bruce is the model for many of her figures, she does not intend for them to be self-portraits in the iconic sense. Instead, their frequently schematic treatment invites generic questions about identity and existence to be extrapolated from the specific instance of the portrait of the artist.
Bruce’s recent works are investigations of sequence and seriality, matter and metaphysics, perception and process. Redolent with ambiguity, they explore the uncertainty and instability of the lone figure, paying particular attention to the traces it leaves behind.
- Born in Sydney, Australia. Lives & works in Sydney
- Lived and worked in Paris and the UK
- Guest Speaker, Art Gallery of NSW.
- Guest Lecturer, National Art School, Sydney
- BA(Fine Arts)(Hons), National Art School
- BA(Fine Arts), National Art School
- B.Comm, University of Sydney
- Sequence, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Treelines and Shadows, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Monuments and Shadows, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- City Sequence, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Kedumba Drawing Award, Kedumba Gallery, Blue Mountains.
- ‘Untitled’, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Ten, Holmes a Court Gallery, Perth
- Dobell Prize for Drawing, AGNSW, Sydney
- ABN Amro Emerging Artist Award Finalists Exhibition
- Body Works, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Christmas Show, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Three, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- Parliament House Exhibition, Parliament House, Sydney
- Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- 4 New Artists, Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
- Salon Des Refuse Exhibition, S.H.Ervin Gallery, Observatory Hill, The Rocks, Sydney
- Nokia Art Awards, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
- Recent Graduates, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst
- Degree Show, Cell Block Gallery, National Art School, Sydney
- Footwork, Shoebox Gallery, Darlinghurst
- One Week in the City, an exhibition of drawings, William Wilkins Gallery, Bridge Street, Sydney
- View from the Cell, Cell Block, National Art School, Sydney
- 48 hours, Grand Pacific Blue Room, Oxford Street, Sydney
- 2000 & 2002
- Lloyd Rees Memorial Art Prize Exhibition, Lane Cove Council Chambers, Sydney
- Waverley Art Prize Exhibition, Waverley Art Centre, Sydney.
- Invitation to participate in the Kedumba Drawing Prize, Blue Mountains
- NAVA Marketing Grant for NSW Artists
- Finalist, ABN AMRO Emerging Artist Award
- Finalist, Dobell Prize for Drawing, Art Gallery of NSW
- Highly Commended, Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
- Denise Hickey Paris Studio Residency, Art Gallery of NSW
- Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award
- Nokia Arts Award Australia (Joint Winner)
- Ken Done painting prize, National Art School
- Gruner Prize for landscape painting, Art Gallery of NSW
July 2009 Bruce, G Treelines and Shadows, Artist Profile Magazine, Issue 7
2008 catalogue ABN Amro Emerging Artist Award
10 March 2008 Gunn, Nicholas, Jet Setting Artist Discovers there’s no place like home MX Magazine
20-21 September 2008 Allen, Christopher, Walk the Line, The Australian
15-16 March 2008 Pakula, Karen Gina Bruce, Open Gallery, Sydney Morning Herald
29 April 2005 An Archibald for Olsen, Sydney Morning Herald
23-24 April 2005 John McDonald, Natural Wonders, Sydney Morning Herald
13 February 2004 Dominique Angeloro, Gina Bruce : Critics Pics, Sydney Morning Herald
April 2004 Leta Keens, Me and my shadows, Belle Magazine
12 February 2004 Fernandes, Michelle Gina Bruce : City Sequence, Events SMH
4 February 2004 Andrew Taylor, Visual Arts Spotlight, SMH
2001 Nokia Art Awards Asia Pacific, Eye on the World, catalogue
- Holmes a Court Collection, Perth