The word ‘edgeland’ describes a place, an uninhabited wasteland, between two different environments, usually a transitional place where the urban world meets the natural world and where elements overlap, disintegrate merge and transition.
The wasteland or abandoned landscape has been a point of departure for much of my recent work. As zones of transition where human made structures are broken down and reabsorbed by nature, they have become for me places of imagination and interpretation. They act as backdrops, laid bare, and create a vista which allows me to imagine an alternative timeline or dimension.
I do not use direct references while painting but rather rely on my memory and experience of places visited. By using this method detail can be lost so the forms within my work become simplified representations of things I have seen and felt. These images can also be described as memories on the edge lands of my unconscious and the act of recollection provides a filter or portal which strips these elements down to their most basic forms. This imagined reality for me has now become a reality on the canvas and describes the edge lands of both the real world and the edges of our unconsciousness.
Within Celtic mythology there are places, ‘thin places’, where people and spirits can move through freely. These axes can be found within trees, rivers and ancient burial grounds among st others. Sometimes, the Otherworld is said to exist alongside our known world, located beyond the edge of the earth with evidence of its intrusion signaled by phenomena such as mist, or the appearance of divine beings or unusual animals.
I imagine a ‘thin place’ as a boundary where real experience and the imagined world meet and cross over. I create portals which are fluid and dreamlike where forms pass through, are distorted and upturned. Recent work uses the motif of a fringe or veil which hangs curtain like and invites the viewer to move through in order to view what lies beyond.
My use of pattern within these other worlds creates familiar points of reference and skew with the unrealities being played out. Through this process of reduction, basic geometric shapes and pattern represent elements of the the human world and act as camouflage while these structures hover and disappear between two states.
‘Edgelands’ as a body of work examines ideas about territory and boundaries and draws inspiration from existing edge lands and wastelands to create work which explores two worlds in transition where an imagined reality as opposed to an actual reality is played out.
The former head of collections at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Catherine Marshall, has written of Lawler’s work that it is pervaded by unease. “It hangs like microscopic atoms of pollution in the air, lingers around multiple ‘blind’ windows, seeks to find a foothold under the high rises, only to collapse into the hollow grid-like like spaces that should be their foundations, and attempts to settle on ground that is subtly curved, billowing or cratered.” The work is marked by “strange blooms of faded colour, dusty pinks, yellows and greens that glow uncertainly against almost monochrome ground colours, surprised occasionally by more accentuated patchworks that remind one simultaneously of Colin Middleton and of illustrated children’s books.”
Yet Marshall also maintains that Lawler’s incredibly subtle treatment of colour, texture and scale, “makes her work a celebration of everything that is good in painting. The work is uplifting because it is always uplifting to find artists with the courage to address difficult issues. When they do it so subtly and effortlessly, we all benefit. The last words in relation to Lawler’s painting are a repetition of those attributed to the great German Modernist Mies Van Der Rohe on good architecture: ‘less is more’.”
Gillian Lawler is an Irish artist based in Dublin. She received a BA in Fine Art Painting from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 2000. She has exhibited extensively throughout Ireland and has had international exhibitions in North America, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Poland, Spain, Holland and Italy.
She has won numerous awards including the Hennessy Craig Award, RHA Gallery Annual exhibition in 2007, the Whytes Award, RHA Gallagher Gallery in 2007, the Parenting Residency Award at the Cow House Studios 2022, the Graphic Studio Dublin Print Award 2019, the Winner of the Open Selection Exhibition Award at the Eigse Arts Festival in 2009. Other awards include a Kildare Arts Services Award 2015/2013/2011/2009, an Arts Council Bursary Award 2020/2009, Culture Ireland Awards 2021/2018/2017/2011 and a studio residency at the RHA Gallery in 2009. She was shortlisted for the Beers Lambert Contemporary, Thames and Hudson publication, 100 Painters of Tomorrow in 2013, the Celeste International Art Prize in 2012 and a Merit prize from the Golden Fleece Award in 2013.
Recent solo shows include Edgelands at the Weber and Weber Gallery, Turin, curated by Valeria Ceregini (2022), the Molesworth Gallery, Dublin (2020), the Weber and Weber Gallery, Turin curated by Valeria Ceregini (2018), The Molesworth Gallery (2018) and Pallas Projects, Dublin (2015).
Group shows include:192nd RHA Annual Exhibition (2022), The Golden Fleece Award 21 Years Exhibition curated by Aisling Prior at the Solstice Arts Centre, Cavan, 189th Annual Exhibition, RHA Gallery (2020), Difference Engine, Altern_nator, HDLU Centre for the Association of Artists, Zagreb, (2018), House Taken Over curated by Hickey + Hickey, The Sonorities Festival, Belfast (2018), Resort Revelations, Lynders Mobile Home Park, Portrane, Dublin (2018), MAD Art Fair Madrid, curated by Jim Ricks (2014), Lacuna ,Taylor Gallery, curated by David Quinn and Sabina McMahon (2014), 40/40/40 Exhibition of Contemporary Art celebrating Ireland’s 40 years in the European Union, Office of Public Works, exhibition touring to Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid, (March – April) Biblioteka Uniwersytecka, Warsaw, (May – June) and Palazzo Della Farnesina, Rome, (June – July) (2014), Difference Engine, Accumulator, Limerick City Gallery (2013), Black Country, Lion and Lamb Gallery, London, curated by Nancy Cogswell (2013), Difference Engine, Accumulator II, The Oriel Myrrdin Gallery, Wales (2013), Pallas Periodical Review, Pallas Projects (2011), Systems Beyond Certainty, Beers Lambert Contemporary, London, (2011), Difference Engine, Manifestation III, CSV Cultural Center, New York (2011), Preponderance of the Small, Douglas Hyde Gallery, (2009) and No Soul For Sale: A Festival for Independents, X-Initiative New York City, (2009).
Upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at the Molesworth Gallery 2023.
She is co-founder/member of the group Difference Engine, an evolving serial exhibition, and a model of autonomous artist curation, by artists Mark Cullen, Jessica Foley, Wendy Judge, Gillian Lawler and featuring Gordon Cheung. Each Manifestation of Difference Engine is based upon an ongoing collaboration, a kind of ‘Jamming’, between the artists. The result yields engaging experimental exhibitions combining installation, video, painting, sculpture and writing