Exhibition- Ellen Gallagher, New works at Hauser & Wirth, London

I was very keen to get to see this exhibition as a follow on from making a study of her work for my last module and seeing her recent exhibition at the Tate Modern. It didn’t disappoint. One element from of her work that had particularly interested me was her series of double sided works, displayed so that you could view both sides. One of her new works is also double-sided- Ark 2014. In the press release on the H&W website both sides are illustrated. At the exhibition I found myself looking for both images, only for it to dawn on me that I wouldn’t be able to see the other side. I felt slightly cheated. The work is unframed and is suspended from what appear to be printing blocks with the letter ‘O’ on (this fits in with her visual language). It hangs an inch or two from the wall tempting you to try and see the rear image. An intriguing angle on presenting work. Some of her previous work has explored erasure and the power of what has been removed or can’t be seen, despite it being physically there all the time.

There were a number of works that continued her unique approach of combining paper and canvas, with ‘penmanship’, almost a motif, along with collaged shapes and forms made from ink stained fragments of paper into rambling abstracted seascapes. I enjoyed her series of ‘Racketeer’ paintings mostly for their painted surface. She has clearly made these of layers and layers of paint that have been worked and reworked, marked, scratched, re-painted to create a highly textured surface. The compositions seem to sit somewhere between figuration and abstraction. It is interesting that although these works feature some elements of collaged inked papers, evidence of using printed matter and the appearance of the letters ‘o’ and ‘e’ that have been features of her work, I felt there was more emphasis on the paint and working the paint. A lot of her previous works have been made using what she refers to as ‘fugitive’ materials, watercolour and inks, with an inherent fragility. There is a slight change in subject matter too- they are described as being inspired the feeding habits of certain birds that Gallagher has observed, and feature what are described as intestinal coils. From previous study of Gallagher’s work I have come to recognise that very often her choice of both materials and methods will be directly related in some way to what is in her work. Knowing of her connection to the sea I could speculate about the sources of her inspirations for these works but that might ruin the magic. I have found it interesting studying the development of her visual language and was pleased to find her new works have given me something new to think about. I’m glad I went.

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