Will Gill brings ‘Bloodredlife’ to new and mixed media

Joan Sullivan
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Will Gill’s expressionist paintings are both organic and systemic. They pump energy through conduits both streamlined industrial and living-heart-arterial. The sweet colours (pinks, lilacs, gentle greys) are splayed and splodged into matrix of valves and veins and intake/output piping. But they are not completely non-representational. Here is a shoe, there is a piece of furniture, and everywhere is a tale being told.

“Blue Viper,” acrylic, chalk pastel, graphite on panel, 48” x 72”, 2013, Will Gill.
Subitted photo

Like the work of Karel Appel, the figuration is embedded with its own vocabulary and calligraphy, an abstract, but still recognizable language that is childlike and mythologic. Simple forms suggest much. Setting them throbbing against and pinwheeling around each other implies much more again. It reminds me of pieces like Franz Kline’s “Chief,” where the subject and application are both abstract and distinctly forged. There are stories pulsing here, pushing out of the surface.

New and mixed media

The nine works in “Bloodredlife” are new and mixed media, including acrylic paint, chalk pastel, and graphite on panel. The portmanteau title reflects the compactness of the imagery. These are busy pieces, and carry an energetic, engineered kind of volume. And though the palette, infused as it is with baby blues and hothouse pinks, often looks good enough to eat, their cupcake lushness actually expresses a lot of drama, even terror.

Many of the paintings depict violent scenarios. Some are from personal or family stories.

“Two Fingers” comes from an accident the visual artist had with a saw. Though the outcome is ambiguous, allowing us to hope for the best, well, you can just imagine.

“Blue Viper” is from a trek his brother was on, when he came close to trodding on one of the lethal creatures. The multi-coloured spectrum of feet suggests the “what if?” of a different path. There is both a continuance and a fall.

Other compositions seem more external, more global, and maybe even distilled from the evening news. For example, “Upside-down Chair” suggests the dreadful tumult of a vicious session of question and answer, where someone was mistreated, and eventually upended, for information, or sport. The unpeopled view is still full of intent and suffering.

Still, the warmth of the tones is not a misdirection. They are not meant to trick you into looking at something you should not see. These are the colours Gill likes to use, and he applies them to give full sway to the punch and harmony a light green can give to a deep black. And the resonance is as engaging as it is suggestive.

For example, “The Olive Grove” is enmeshed with balls and threads of crimson and violet and charcoal that seem to funnel into trunks and spines and teeth of red and black. The packed iconography emerges as something like a pack of animals, herding forward.

And “Family” leaps with purple legs and outstretched yellow arms against two centring cages of ribs, like two parents who can only simply stand and watch their wonderous offspring.

“Will Gill: Bloodredlife” continues at the Christina Parker Gallery until May 31.

Geographic location: Olive Grove

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