Painting as object’ is how Gwenyth Fugard likes to refer to her work. Her painting is about process and the value she places on everything that happens to the surface of the canvas. Starting from the preparation of the stretcher and the masking of the periphery of the canvas to the diverse ways she applies paint and material to the surface. Whether she is using paint or alternative materials on the canvas, it is a construct either way. She doesn’t consider herself an abstract painter as she is not reducing or distilling from a subject. It is a practice that primarily focuses on the building of a painting. Referring back to her earlier background in textiles and fashion, she talks more specifically about dressing the canvas.
It is this process of paying attention to the details of the edges and the surface. Whether it is piercing of the surface of canvas with copper wire, or folding the corners of the canvas, or adding a subtly stitched seam, the traditional linen canvas on a wooden stretcher is radicalised by a series of obstacles, interventions or interferences and even accidents. These are then overcome as she works through each piece, pushing the boundaries of a twodimensional work into the realm of the three-dimensional object. It is an organic process as far as possible, with one body of work following on from the previous. An integral part of this process is giving permission to herself to allow things to happen. Equality of the surface of the work is crucial; everything has equal value, the accidents, the challenges and the spontaneous observations or technical mishaps. It’s a process of realisation with each mark and decision made evident. Her interest oscillates from restraint and neutrality to drama and excess with instinctual and sometimes decadent jewel-like layers upon layers of paint, to create beautifully subtle and understated pieces. Her choice of materials naturally reflects this.
The translucent voiles, and delicately ephemeral organzas and mesh-netting she sometimes uses is often juxtaposed with more hard-edged, utilitarian and cheaper materials such as copper wiring or tacks from a hardware store. Fugard comes from the point of view that we are all reading imagery and painting very differently in our social-media obsessed, online culture. She likes to think that her constructs will encourage people to slow down and try and gaze deeper into her work. Interesting layers, folds, stitches, and piercings can all be missed if her work is scanned or skimmed over. The hope is to encourage people to slow down enough to be able to enter into a sanctuary of quiet contemplation. Her work is a refreshing respite and an interesting challenge to some more traditional notions of painting in the vein of other contemporary painters such as Wade Guyton and Julia Rommel.