Elizabeth McIntosh

17 November — 21 December, 2017

ISLANDS is Eliz­a­beth McIntosh’s first solo exhi­bi­tion with the gallery, while an ‘island’ is a piece of sub-con­ti­nen­tal land sur­round­ed by water. Com­prised of her most recent paint­ings, there is a sug­ges­tion here of paint­ings as metaphor­i­cal islands. Many of the works in this show were cre­at­ed dur­ing her res­i­den­cy this past sum­mer on the remote con­ti­nen­tal island of Fogo, New­found­land, and ele­ments of these works are tak­en direct­ly from that visu­al envi­ron­ment and its his­to­ries. Almost direct­ly south of Fogo, but well below the equa­tor, lies the ocean­ic, trop­i­cal island of Bar­ba­dos, which has fea­tured in Elizabeth’s pre­vi­ous work and where she has per­son­al con­nec­tions. Islands are dis­tinct, but ‘island cul­ture’ and ‘island time’ con­nect them psy­chi­cal­ly, despite geo­graph­ic, racial, his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences.

Elizabeth’s work is deft­ly artic­u­lat­ed through mul­ti­ple paint­ing vocab­u­lar­ies. Colour­ful geo­met­ric abstrac­tions ebb through pat­tern and into graph­ic, rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al com­po­si­tions, shifts which are led by her con­tin­u­ous ques­tion­ing of con­tem­po­rary paint­ing prac­tices. Her recent work is based in a sys­tem­at­ic process of dig­i­tal col­lage, often begin­ning from a grow­ing image archive devel­oped over sev­er­al years. This visu­al cache includes frag­ments from his­tor­i­cal paint­ings, but is not lim­it­ed to art his­to­ry. It also con­sists of images select­ed from her own pre­vi­ous work, iPad doo­dles, and draw­ings from pho­tographs of her own life. Dig­i­tal­ly com­posed, these lay­ers of the art his­tor­i­cal, the per­son­al, and the auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal become intu­itive­ly and for­mal­ly inter­con­nect­ed, on equal ground. The acts of her dig­i­tal cut­ting are often left vis­i­ble, and Eliz­a­beth embraces these inci­dents as gen­er­a­tive, both for­mal­ly and con­cep­tu­al­ly. The rudi­men­ta­ry selec­tion tools of Pho­to­shop are allowed to leave their trace, defin­ing the coast­lines of each lay­er as smooth or rugged.

This instinc­tive and impro­vi­sa­tion­al process both changes and remains the same from work to work. Elizabeth’s gestures—simultaneously direct but at a remove—articulate a dis­trust of art his­to­ry, trou­bling the rev­er­ence for author­i­ty of the expres­sive, mas­ter­ful, gen­dered ges­ture. Expressed by the phys­i­cal mate­r­i­al of paint, each painting’s sur­face becomes its own con­tent, still psy­chi­cal­ly con­nect­ed to the oth­ers. What occurs when an algo­rith­mic deci­sion to artic­u­late dif­fer­ence accrues impas­to?

“We are vol­ca­noes,” Ursu­la Le Guin once remarked. “When we women offer our expe­ri­ence as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new moun­tains.” The new voic­es that are under­sea vol­ca­noes erupt in what was mis­tak­en for open water, and new islands are born; it’s a furi­ous busi­ness and a star­tling one. The world changes.’

Rebec­ca Sol­nit, “A Short His­to­ry of Silence”, in The Moth­er of All Ques­tions, 2017