Accidental Beauty: a Q & A with Gwenyth Fugard.

Lisa Norris Gallery
Feb 1, 2018 11:48AM

Gwenyth Fugard has recently completed her MFA at the City and Guilds School of Art.  This new body of paintings won the Tony Carter Award and will come together in a new solo show. We caught up with Gwenyth and asked her about her latest body of work on the run up to the opening of her show.   Gwenyth Fugard: Accidental Beauty opens at the Lisa Norris Gallery on the 1st March and continues through 7th April 2018.

Gwenyth Fugard - Accidental Beauty. Lisa Norris Gallery, London (opens March 2018).

To what degree would you say your background and past life in fashion and textiles has impacted your recent body of painting?  For example you are drawn to folds, wrapping and texture.

Until recently my previous interests and skills working in fashion and textile, I had kept separate. However, the pleasure and interest in preparing a canvas became increasingly more important. This is how the notion of construction initially developed. I hold a knowledge of how materials behave and it has been a very interesting and exciting process of allowing these earlier skills to enter my recent works.

What inspires or guides your colour palette, you produce such beautiful inky, petrol blues and rusty, burgundy reds?

My choice of colour is usually instinctual. I swing between neutral and vibrancy and representations of these choices are evidenced in the new body of work. Most paintings are worked in predominantly one colour. My decisions with application oscillate between restraint, denial and excess.  

What would you say your starting point is? Can you explain what you mean when you refer to ‘salvage’, ‘repair’ in relation to your new work? Is this symbolic or something you contemplate on while working: this tenuous relationship with life and its balance? Or is it as varied as catching a shadow, pattern or observation of some small detail as you go about your daily life?

My starting point for each work presents itself through the previous work. The most recent paintings are developed with the intention of them operating as “the thing in itself”. Great effort is sustained in disallowing a work to represent or refer to anything other than itself. We are meaning makers by habit and have a tendency to attach by association a meaning to most paintings.  “It reminds me of ….’, or “It looks like …”, etc. However, I intend the works to prompt an inquiry about the formal and traditional aspects of painting. The mechanics of painting. Painting-as-object. I conform to traditional formats and materials but intend for the compilation of these materials to be altered and shifted from the expected. This results in the 5 sides of the painting to  hold greater significance and places an emphasis on the paintings objectivity.

My choice of materials may suggest salvage and repair, through the act of bandaging and supporting eroding borders, or the reconstruction of deconstruction which occurs through the making process. Symbolism maybe attached, but I am not intending to make social or political comment. We preside during a time of political disillusionment and I prefer not to add to this noise. I prefer my paintings to offer the viewer a quiet place for contemplation. If this results in symbolic meaning being attached to any one work, then that is a private matter and undoubtedly inevitable.  

You talk of constructing a painting and your new series is entitled ‘Constructs’, can you expand on that?  Would you say there is a tension in your work between construction and deconstruction, soft, delicate edged and hard, abrasive edged?   Talk to me a little bit about the choices of your media in your new work: copper wire, mesh, netting, voiles, thread, organza, muslin.  How did you arrive at these choices?

The notion of constructing a painting as opposed to merely painting a painting now informs its development. I approach the surface as a site for addition. With the addition of various materials being attached and draped upon the surface, the works may adopt a bodily presence. Some materials may be selected for their delicate and translucent quality and others for their cheap, hard or contrasting qualities. For example vinyl, tacks, copper and silver wire, silk organza, scrim and canvas. Hardware and textile stores provide a wealth of inspiration. Having said that, I do also construct a work with the building up of paint. Copious amounts of beeswax is mixed into the oil and the surface and supporting sides are built up with paint.

It seems as if you talk about your work as a series of interventions on the pictorial surface/ plane.  Painting about painting?  Would that be a fair summary of your process? Emphasis is placed on the construction, not merely the painting of a painting.  So is it in part organically planned?

I observe that obstructions and interventions occur constantly in most things. I also observe this occurring on the picture plane when in the process of making and therefore allow myself to cultivate these occurrences. They become integral in how the surface will be completed. I may force folds or place seams across the linen or canvas. This process enables me to dress the structure of the painting. Error may also become and intervention and I may allow this to remain exposed. It is what it is, which raises the questions of beauty and value. If every action and mark takes equal value a type of egalitarianism starts operating within the work. All materials and actions take equal importance. The substrate, the paint, the fold, the colour etc. Exposure of all decisions made.  

As an abstract artist who is primarily preoccupied with the formal concepts of painting, who would you say most influences you and why?

Robert Ryman for his discussion on paint. Wade Guyton for his attention to error occurring in the process of mechanical reproduction and for these works to operate as paintings. Julia Rommel for her attention to the mechanics of painting.

From where you started in say 2011, could you summarise a little the journey from figuration, to abstraction?

When I look back through the evolution of my own practice I can observe my attempts to reduce and minimalise content. A turning point occurred recently when I realised I am not taking out or reducing down the content, I am actually building up. I also have come to realise that my work is not truly abstract either, as I am not abstracting from anything. I prefer to call the paintings non-representational or painting-as-object. Prior to the most recent body of works, my concerns were with illusionary spaces being created through line. This notion hovers closely as every vertical, horizontal or diagonal mark is placed on the surface, as this may offer a spatial illusion. This remains a fascination as I battle to prevent this space from occurring.

Lisa Norris Gallery