Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher is a painter that enjoys playing with joy. She feels as thought she can take an advertising sign, just to play around with it. Gallagher did not come from a fine art background, but rather a carpentry background, where she worked on a floating bridge. This, when moving onto fine art, allowed her to create a lattice work, which acted as a spread over a canvas, which was sat on as she added penmanship paper. For Gallagher, penmanship paper is very gestural and meaningful.
From this, Gallagher moved onto archival materials, including that of ebony magazines, which she collected. These were, in a way, manifestos, and each one had urgency and a sense of necessity, but they were still entertainment. The magazines were about identity in the most open sense of the word, and in the sense that refuses to be stamped out. Gallagher found that you are then able to read a painting, and the way in which she was able to exhibit this was open, rather than sequential. Where characters and stories were concentrated on, the visceral-ness of the body was found, especially through the character of peg leg.
Paintings therefore function as a journey to other, brighter paintings, which were often produced on her travels. The processes of this included scratching the information into the paper, and using bright pigments. Throughout her travels, Gallagher also found that she was drawn to water and was therefore interested in capturing it and how it has travelled in her own history. Much of her family arrived on boats, and via the water. In film, each frame erased the frame before it, creating both a watery and a static piece. These were thick watercolour, cutting and layering, captured photograph by photograph.
In the piece Grid to Deluxe, each piece is its own individual drama, or stage. This lead Gallagher onto tattooing, as though she is embossing over the skin. Within her work, the themes of repetition, revision, stacking, layering and building densities can be seen throughout. Another theme is the use of nostalgia in a way of looking forward and looking for home.
I enjoyed learning about Gallagher’s work, as it was a very logical procession, and there is a sense of the use of line throughout her work. I also found it interesting that there was such a high contrast in the colours that Gallagher uses, as it is often yellow on top of monochrome.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe for the latest art updates in my newsletter