Taking it in by Kylie Spear
Exhibition essay for Wide Eyed at
Edwina Corlette Gallery, Februray 2019.
It is a hot midsummer afternoon as I wind my way down the gravelroad towards the Guide Hut Studios. I pass a shadowy wall of monstera along theway, and am greeted by a looming silver dollar bush before parking my car. Iopen the door and am filled by the sun’s glare and the call of cicadas. Bridiedescends the stairs at the entrance of her modest studio and we immediatelyhead off to see the little creek that runs through the bush just a few minuteswalk away. As we stroll we discuss our surroundings: the origins of the stream;the native vines encasing the gums; a group of trees that she thinks of assisters; a twisted eucalypt that resembles a limb. It is clear that Bridie hasdeveloped an affinity for this place that she has been keenly observing sinceshe arrived in May 2018.
Bridie Gillman is a contemporary artist based in Brisbane. Herpractice spans photography, installation, audio-visual works, and painting. Nomatter the medium, Bridie’s work communicates physical and emotional responsesto various ‘in-between’ spaces. She has looked extensively at her manyintercultural experiences, including childhood years spent in Indonesia throughto recent residencies in Malaysia and Java.
Bridie’s installations are playful and sometimes awkward constructions thatcombine found and made objects. Her photographic works act as more immediateresponses to a place and highlight Bridie’s command of light, colour and form.These works capture the subtle beauty of daily human activities, such as anelegantly twisted length of hose, piles of bricks or coconuts, a hot-pinkplastic chair sunken into the sand.
Painting is unique in her practice as it reduces any recognisable forms down tojust colour, gesture and texture. The abstracted combinations of these elementsspeak in a more raw and tactile way. It is this medium that Bridie has beenfocusing on most intensely in her recent months at Tarragindi.
As we return and enter the small wooden hut perched at theSouthern end of the recreation Reserve Bridie begins to talk me through herrecent paintings. Her studio windows look directly out over the surroundingforest. It is deceptively remote here, easy to forget this small plot of landsits within a busy suburb. She lifts one canvas away from a stack of works andplaces it on the wall. Amongst the fields of gestural muddy greens, stormy huesand faint jacaranda purples light patches of chartreuse peek through from thelayer beneath. Bridie tells me that this work, titled The sun has set, butthe light remains was made in response to her early days on site. Sheremembers walking out from the studio just after the sun had set. While thelight was fading she was struck by the intense colour of the sky when viewed inisolated patches. She returned to the studio to write about the event in herjournal, returning some time later to these words before creating the work.
This is the process Bridie followed to create the series shown in WideEyed. Her considered observations developed into a detailed log of hersurroundings, recording small moments like the location of the trees she hasseen flowering, the colour of bark as it changes in the rain, the hue of newgrass as the season changes. She refers to these records as field studies aswell as meditations. For this exhibition Bridie has purposely focused on representingthe memory of such events, and will only begin a painting some time after theoriginal observation. She likes to see how memory changes things, and willventure back out of the studio afterwards to compare her work with the realthing.
Bridie concedes that she does not feel entirely comfortable inthis bushy environment, though she wants to. The title of her show refers tothis feeling of uneasiness, as well as to the awe she experiences in thepresence of her surroundings. She has embraced these opposing sensationsequally, breathing it all in as vital parts of her experience. The sense ofcaution she feels translates into physical habits. She will routinely squinther eyes and blur her vision while looking into the growth to watch for the telltalemovements of snakes. On our earlier walk I noticed her stomping through thescrubby paths, assumably to ward off any nearby creatures. Bridie tells me shedoes feel fear in this place due to both the perceived threat of dangerousanimals but also as a woman alone in this setting. This stirs the familiar ‘noplace for a woman’ postcolonial legacy . However, her process of slow,detailed observation of everyday moments in the bush represents a workingmethod to reconcile this disquiet.
Bridie clears away a few more canvases to reveal the next work upfor conversation. The scale of A warm breeze is larger, taller than theartist, and enveloping. A long stretch of murky green rides down the side ofthe work, and opens up into vast shades of pink. We had talk about a tree atthe top of the gravel path that had been flowering heavily some months ago.This work is based on her memory of that tree. By focusing in on such detailsthis work, and indeed all the works in Wide Eyed, memorialises a quietmoment elegantly skewed by her recollection and generous brushstrokes.
She moves the next canvas along the floor and rotates it to sit asa landscape, elevated by two empty paint tins. The vibrant burnt orange in Flowering,fiery. 2019 is lifted by hints of surrounding blush pink and olivegreen. She points from the work out the window to the African Tulip tree, anintroduced species, still flowering that same orange hue in the distance.
 Schaffer, K. (1988). Women and the bush. Sydney:Cambridge University Press.
Bridie and Kylie wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians ofthe land on which we live, learn and work in central Brisbane. We pay ourrespects to both the Jagera people and the Turrbul people and their Elders,past, present and emerging.