Collage is often thought of as a medium of disjunction and the shock of unrelated forms clashing against each other. But collage can also be about the careful fitting together of unrelated parts to add up to a new cohesive unity. Gardiner's collages fall into the latter category where the forms and color systems she employs are governed by a painter's eye that looks for resonant relationships. This is evidenced by the compositions' linear structures where the edges of one form moves along a certain trajectory that connects to the linear movement of adjoining forms and at the same time creates the containment of negative spaces that teeter on becoming positives.
Gardiner's collages play various opposites or dissimilars against each other such as photographic images of bits of figures against reproductions of paintings, often Cubist paintings. The figures might be photographs of actual persons or reproductions of sculpted figures in stone: a part of a torso, a leg or arm, always anonymous, always formal. In fact, the actual imagery on the paper materials Gardiner uses seems to be of little consequence except in the employment of the forms and how they visually contribute to the spacial relationships and overall unity of the composition.
Ginnie Gardiner is a mid-career New York artist who has shown in numerous solo and group exhibits for 30 years. Gardiner graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1974. In 2005 she moved upstate to Catskill, New York, where she and her husband renovated and restored the former Lyceum, a Federal era building located in this historic village.
‘You breathe more here,” says Gardiner, standing in her courtyard . And you can see that fresh air in Gardiner’s recent paintings, sun-streaked portraits and landscapes that attest to the dramatic impact of her move upstate after a quarter-century in a Manhattan loft. Yet these bold, assured images have unmistakable affinities with the cool modernism of Gardiner’s still lifes from the 1980s and the vibrant interplay between figuration and abstraction in her collage-inspired paintings of the ‘90s. They indicate the continuity of her formal concerns even as she opens up her work to the sights and sounds of her new environment.’ – excerpt from ‘Ginnie Gardiner, At Ease with Creation,’ Wendy Smith, 2015
Gardiner’s distinctive style of color notes of optically mixed oil paints produces shimmering, figurative abstractly coherent works. Gardiner sites the 2nd generation New York School painters and the Bay Area Figurative artists, with their reductive treatment of form and clarity of light, as influences. ‘Of course each artist has a distinctive way of unsettling our habits of seeing. With the sunlit stillness of her paintings, Gardiner seizes our attention and holds it with pictorial subtleties that show us, by stages, that stillness is not stasis. Presenting a precisely calibrated balance between figurative images and the harmonies of sheer form, each of her paintings oscillates between these two ways of seeing. Subliminal at first, this oscillation becomes conscious as we begin to see ourselves seeing. Encouraging us to be aware of how we make sense of the raw data of vision, Gardiner reminds us of our responsibility for the look—and the meaning—of our world.’ excerpt from ‘Sunlit Stillness: Ginnie Gardiner’s Transformative Vision,’ Carter Ratcliff, 2014
Ginnie Gardiner has been included in many exhibitions at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea over the past decade, including the 2010 exhibit ‘In Translation: Austin/Deem/Gardiner’. To quote from that exhibit: ‘In Ginnie Gardiner’s recent series of collages and paintings, the artist weaves landscape fragments from Cezanne Picasso and Hokusai with her own photographic images of dancers. The art historical passages in Gardiner’s works are decidedly abstract. Quotation is a vital aspect of her process and is rooted in the images and theories of twentieth century collage (particularly in the fields of Dada, Surrealism, and Pop). In combining historical reference with contemporary images of the body, she creates a richly layered landscape of shifting color and movement that is recognizable yet elusive. ‘ Pavel Zoubok, 2010
In ‘Daughters of the Revolution.’ A group exhibition in 2009, also at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery, art reviewer Mario Naves wrote ‘but the best finds here—Ginnie Gardiner and Maritta Tapanaine—glance respectively upon Freudian portent and microcellular absurdism. With Gatekeeper (2008), Gardiner makes something tender and silky from Surrealism’s dreamlike amplitude – It’s a fleet bit of magic and of a piece with a lovingly paced and engaging exhibition.?’
‘Generally, Gardiner’s vibrant color and elegantly energized figures are breathtaking. And they energize the viewer as well.’ Glenn Loney, Curator’s Choice, February, 2000
Collage, London / New York, FRED (London), London, England Daughters of the Revolution: Women & Collage, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NY, July-AUgust
The New Collage, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, NY
COLLAGE: signs & surfaces, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, NY
Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN, Group Exhibit
Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN, Group Exhibit
Collage/Assemblage/Montage, Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, Lancaster, PA, February 4 – March 22, 2002
Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN, Group Exhibit
Rupture and Revision: Collage in America, Pavel Zoubok, Inc., New York, NY, November 2001-January, 2002
Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN, Group Exhibit
Talking With Tiepolo, Solo Exhibition, Pavel Zoubok/Michael Gold Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Paintings from the Glass Series, Solo Exhibition, The Lighthouse Museum, in association with The Artists Museum of New York, Tequesta, FL.
Recent Paintings, Solo Exhibition, Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN.
The Art of Collecting, Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN., May 22 – June 26
Mary Anthony Galleries, Solo Exhibition, New York, N.Y.
And I Quote, Pavel Zoubok/Mary Delahoyd Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Recent Paintings, Solo Exhibition, Mary Anthony Galleries, New York, N.Y.
The Re-Associated Image, Curated by Ginnie Gardiner, Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN, February – April
Mary Anthony Galleries, New York, N.Y., Group Exhibit
New Paintings, Solo Exhibition, Danziger Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Danziger Gallery, New York, N.Y., Group Exhibit
Staempfli Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Color As A Subject, The Artist’s Museum, In association with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery and Staempfli Gallery, New York, N.Y. (Based on a proposal by Jonathan Phillips & Ginnie Gardiner, “Color as Subject: a Proposal for a New Way to Look at Painting at the End of This Century”), May 6 – June 1, The Police Building, New York, NY
Flanders Contemporary Art, Solo Exhibition, Minneapolis, MN.
Color Equals Subject, Seraphim Gallery, Englewood, N.J.
Waiting for Cadmium, Sherry French Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Seraphim Gallery, Solo Exhibition, Englewood, N.J.
Recent Paintings, Solo Exhibition, The Neuhaus Collection, Washington, D.C.
Works from Central Park and Ellis Island, The Marbella Gallery, New York, N.Y.
The Quiet Zone and Ellis Island, The Arsenal Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Myth, Mokotoff Gallery, New York, N.Y., New York, NY
New Paintings, Solo Exhibition, Esta Robinson Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Imagism, David Matlock/The Outer Limits Gallery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Loweasida Speaks, ABC No Rio Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Hiro/Fusion Arts, New York, N.Y.
Dramatis Personae, New York, N.Y.
Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Ithaca, New York, B.F.A, 1974
Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning Newsletter, Ginnie Gardiner’s Website, March-April
Star Tribune, Minneapolis Edition, Review of ‘The Re-associated Image’ , Flanders Contemporary Art, ‘New gallery shows offer essays, ideas; Standout Collages’, by Doug Hanson, March
The New York Times, Creative Tension, and the Loft, Robert Lipsyte, December 7
The New York Daily News, Art for Net’s Sake, George Mannes, January
Oil Highlights Magazine, Collector’s Series, Getting the Most from a Palette of Colors, Stephen Doherty, Fall
Resident, The Upper East Side Edition, Cover Feature, March 10-24
Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning Newsletter, Color as a Subject, October
Spur Magazine, New York Artists at the Museums, August
Channel 10 Cablevision; Interview by Jo Ann Santiglio, September 11
Cable Network News, Art Program, August 2
The Today Show, NBC TV, Deborah Norville, July 25
St. Paul Pioneer Press, Carol Connelly, July 1
Insight Magazine, Artists Draw the Line, Stephen Goode, April
American Artist, Cover Feature, M. Stephen Doherty, April
Your Town Record, Arts Cover Feature, Ed Hill, March 3
American Artist, Dan Grant, September
WKCR. Katie Lipsitt interview, November 20
ArtWorld, Richard Hunnewell, October
Newsday, Weekend Guide, Highlights, September 9
CBS Evening News, J.J. Gonzalez, On Site at Ellis Island, August 22
My working method since the mid 1990s’ has been to create equivalent color palettes from my collage and montage studies for translation into the medium of oil paint. In all of my paintings I have sought color mastery and color is the subject of my work. Both Josef Albers and Charles W. Hawthorne were obsessed with creating the illusion of transparency in the opaque medium of oil paint. Both their teachings and their daily practice continue to inspire me today.
“SUNLIT STILLNESS: GINNIE GARDINER’S TRANSFORMATIVE VISION” BY CARTER RATCLIFF
Posted on July 10, 2014 by Ginnie
Every fully realized oeuvre has a prevailing climate. In Ginnie Gardiner’s paintings, the day is nearly always sunny—but never sweltering. Flickering through her images with a serene and lively warmth, sunlight gives its luminosity even to shadows. It’s tempting to say that Gardiner is an artist of summer at its most idyllic, yet this would ignore a crucial subtlety. Certain of her paintings might well show us a moment early in spring, when the light takes its intensity from a slight, residual chill in the air. And the shadows behind the figure in Spectator, 2013, have an autumnal resonance. Or so it seems at certain moments. We can’t be sure if this painting belongs to August or September, for Gardiner is not trying to document specific times of year. She is creating her own weather, the climate of a world of her own invention. This world engages us precisely because we can’t come to any final conclusions about it. Always open to further interpretation, her paintings can never be relegated to that region of the past reserved for things we have fully understood. Inexhaustible, they stay alive in the present.
The elusiveness of their season reappears, transformed, when we ask what sort of paintings they are. The four canvases in this exhibition depict a woman—the artist herself—with clarity and concision. At the center of Purple Dress, 2013, is a diamond shape formed by the sitter’s forearms, her tilted shoulders, and the shin that provides this image with its main diagonal. With surprisingly few tones, Gardiner has given this stretch of the figure’s right leg a fully and subtly articulated volume. We sense the warmth of flesh in sunlight. This is a figurative image, undeniably. Yet the streak of high-keyed color running the length of the shin is so engaging in itself, as a shape, that our recognition of the artist’s subject is intermingled with an appreciation of this painting as sheer form. Gardiner the representational painter seems, at moments, to become an abstractionist.
Purple Dress is a picture of a woman sitting in a chair and wearing a dress that happens to be purple, yet the flicker of purples and grays on the sitter’s left sleeve—in fact, the play of color and tone in every region of the image—is so absorbing that we sometimes lose sight of the subject. The pleasures of this absorption may well distract us from an insistent question: why would an artist cultivate ambiguities that distract us from a clear view of what, according to its title, the painting is about? Unless they are militantly abstract, shouldn’t pictures focus our attention on the way things look? The best answer to the latter question is that we shouldn’t be too certain that we know how things look. The ambiguities of Gardiner’s paintings have the salutary effect of encouraging us—even inspiring us—to question not only what we see but also the experience of seeing.
Though the title of Spectator III, 2014, refers to the figure leaning over the back of a chair and gazing into the distance, it could refer as well to a viewer caught up in the spectacle of color-stripes angling across the surface of the canvas. As these stripes establish the shape of the dress the figure is wearing they also map a portion of that surface with a decisiveness that orients and clarifies everything else in the image—especially the angled elbow and knee. Seen not as body parts but as visual forms, these elements of the image take on a kind of monumentality as we see how effectively they anchor and stabilize a wonderfully complex pictorial architecture. By opening her figurative imagery to quasi-abstract readings of this kind, Gardiner is not removing her art from the world of everyday experience. On the contrary, she is demonstrating, in the intuitive manner of an artist, how vision makes sense of that world.
Far from passive reception of visible things, seeing is an active process. One of painting’s abiding purposes is to slow down that process and render it more fully conscious. So Gardiner gives us the chance to note, for example, how a certain patch of flat, luminous gray in Spectator III signifies a flat wall and, elsewhere in the painting, a similar patch molds the volume of a shoulder. If, in the course of tracing this difference, we linger over the abstract beauty of these forms, so much the better, not only for beauty’s sake but also because it is fascinating to see how powerfully context shapes meaning. Just as the word “light” can be a noun or a verb, part of an exclamation (“This rock is light.”) or even an imperative (“Light the stove.”), so any of Gardiner’s forms can be flat or rounded, opaque or translucent, depending on how and where she deploys it. Thus her paintings do what works of art have always done: they rescue us from the unearned certainties of ordinary vision.
However reliable they may seem, these certainties do not rest on a solid foundation. In fact, they are little more than a communal agreement about the way things look and what they mean. I don’t want to sound dismissive. Without this largely unexamined agreement, day-to-day life would be impossible. Our familiar, shared way of seeing the world has practical value. Yet it can be oppressive for it is, after all, a deeply ingrained routine: a bundle of well-worn perceptual/conceptual habits that blur our attention and remove us from the flow of our own experience. Rescuing us from that routine, artists put us back in the immediate present. But only if we are willing to enter into a sort of collaboration, responding to visual cues and following their implications as far as we can. Conscious seeing requires conscious effort, which we experience not as work but as pleasure.
Of course each artist has a distinctive way of unsettling our habits of seeing. With the sunlit stillness of her paintings, Gardiner seizes our attention and holds it with pictorial subtleties that show us, by stages, that stillness is not stasis. Presenting a precisely calibrated balance between figurative images and the harmonies of sheer form, each of her paintings oscillates between these two ways of seeing. Subliminal at first, this oscillation becomes conscious as we begin to see ourselves seeing. Encouraging us to be aware of how we make sense of the raw data of vision, Gardiner reminds us of our responsibility for the look—and the meaning—of our world.
The danger of praising her in these terms is that it imputes a didactic purpose to her art, and that would be a distortion. Far from trying to teach us anything, she reminds us of what we already know but are usually too distracted, too bent on some narrow purpose, to remember. She recalls us to the fullness of the moment. And she does this in a style so thoroughly her own that she recalls us, as well, to our own styles of seeing. And of being. For that is the largest purpose—or it might be better to say, the strongest effect—of her art: it reminds us of who we are, not as members of an audience but as individuals, each with a distinctive way of making sense of the lush complexities she offers.
Carter Ratcliff is a poet, art critic, and Contributing Editor of Art in America. He is the author of The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art and Andy Warhol: Portraits, among many other publications. His first novel Tequila Mockingbird is forthcoming in Spring 2015.
Nisa Touchon Fine Art - Santa Fe - 1925 Rosina Street, Suite C - Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 - tel:505-303-3034 - www.nisatouchon.com - Contemporary art gallery specializing in Collage, Assemblage and Constructive works of art with an international array of artists.