The Kunsthaus Baselland is pleased to present the first institutional exhibition of the young British artist Lydia Gifford in Switzerland.
Lydia Gifford studied at the Royal College of Art and at the Chelsea School of Art and Design. She was already seen in Switzerland in a group exhibition at the Galerie BolteLang in Zurich and drew attention by her outstanding contribution to the Art Statements 2011. In 2012 her works were seen, inter alia, at the exhibition Minimal Myth in the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam, at a solo exhibition at the David Roberts Art Foundation in London and at the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Rennes.
Painting processes and dealing with the opportunities to overcome limitations of the media, as well as physical and spatial considerations are the core issues in Gifford’s work. Her paintings interact with the sculptural territory and rise above a specified limit both formally and spatially. The last step in the creation is usually undertaken by the artist on site by directly painting individual positions of the images on the wall.
The artist conceived entirely new works for the exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland. Siding, which is the title of the exhibition, gives a first indication of the conception of the newly created work. The term refers to architectural panelling or cladding and means various spatial elements that stand out from the usual architectural setting or represent a disruption in the traditional architectural structures. For the 40m long wall at the Kunsthaus Baselland, the artist clothed the different, found and mostly uneven boards with countless layers of specially produced and mixed paints. These differently structured units solidified with paint form the starting point for a wall composition, which creates a specific rhythmisation of the wall and the room by overlapping and/or continued individual items and spaces interposed in between. The elements on the wall are read together and interpreted, for example, as floating, falling or rising signs, as repetitions, interruptions or polyphonic characters that come together or drift apart. Lydia Gifford refers to the infinite possibilities of the overall concept, which she ultimately decides with the movement sequences on site and according to space constraints, and which can be envisaged in advance in the studio only in principle. The work is reminiscent of Robert Morris’ Untitled (Scatter Piece) of 1968/69, which combined the 200 elements made of various materials differently in each exhibition. While Morris made his decisions based on external, random aids (e.g. coin tossing), Gifford acts according to visual, physical and spatially influenced decisions. In the process not only the individually painted elements fit in with the body size of the artist — the boards are not much longer than her arms — their placement in space is also determined by elements of movement and physical references.
In the same way, the pictures designed for the other rooms get their characteristic form by the respective work process. Lydia Gifford literally wraps the stretched frame with a large cotton cloth, whose corners she generously tucks and secures. The layers of an oil and chalk mixture in predominantly subtle colours penetrate the colour base and form plastic compounds with it. The surfaces are characterised by the different structures of the work process; time and again, a single pigment particle of the paint mixture penetrates to the surface and leaves the trace of a different colour during the spreading. The front and back sides of the pictures are often playfully developed until one of the two sides dominates, or the work in its final placement is arranged in such a way that it can be viewed from both sides. Even if only one side is presented, the visible is determined by what that lies behind. The recollection of that which is hidden behind determines the effect of the visible.
Some picture arrangements consist of several parts, which are assembled together and presented. Their shapes are not defined a priori as a conceptual starting point, but explored in the process of emergence. Even in these wall compositions, the empty spaces emerging in between are important insofar as they also influence the reading of the picture as a whole.
Gifford’s works are paintings that emerge through the confrontation between the surface of the image carrier and a form, which tries to overcome that surface in the work process. Thus, a corner can be broken off and re-formed. The artist balances the characteristics of painting and sculpture and thus gives the works their own separate and unique language.
Text by Sabine Schaschl