Main Image.

I’ve been an artist for 13 years. It’s easy to remember as it was also the year my oldest daughter was born. She was due the day of my final end of year exhibition and I willed her to be late! She was, so I got to complete that part of my life before a new chapter was underway.

Before the luxury of a full-time art course, I’d spent years fitting in art around my day – and night – job as a journalist. I’d taken evening art classes and joined holiday programmes in pottery, print making, photography, life drawing, painting and jewellery.

It was a chance meeting in 2002 with abstract artist Peter Adsett at Whitereia Polytechnic that had prompted this change of career. In conjunction with an art historian he was offering a thought-provoking course through The Learning Connection. Students would learn through their practice and study modern abstract process artists, such as Richard Serra, Jackson Pollock, Barnet Newman, Eva Hesse and Robert Ryman.

The course prompted me to take a new approach to art making. To focus on process rather than image and to look at the fundamental aspects of painting – the paint and the support. New series have developed on from each other or by asking myself “What if?” What if I try to undo a canvas, will it fall apart or will something else happen? Can I create a painting without the traditional support of paper or canvas/linen? The result goes beyond any expectations or preconceived ideas. And I find that interesting and rewarding.

Early on, I mixed paint with egg – as per a modern day tempura - and subjected it to modern day apparatus by cooking it in the microwave. Then I investigated the support of painting by removing part of it. This created works where strands of threads twirled together in various groups and created shadows. The shadows were real and became part of the work instead of being an illusionary creation. 

That led me to a new series of work where I wove strands of solid paint, making paint both the surface and the support. Now, in 2017, I am using the painted threads that I removed to create new works that investigate line, drawing and surface

In this way, my work is purely abstract. There is no image or outside referent. It is of itself and pictures nothing.

I’ve been part of group shows at Shed 11 and Pataka and organised my own solo shows at Toi Poneke and Thistle Hall. My work is held in national and international collections.

After visiting the Parkin Drawing Prize in 2015 I was inspired to enter. I worked in my studio for about a year before I created the works I entered, Map of the Surface and 3 Stitches and a Turn. These works are made by a translucent support which reveals the back of the work. For me, the line is the essence of drawing.

One of the pieces was a finalist in 2016 and won a Merit Award. Judge Jenny Harper said it “successfully combined domesticity with abstraction”. That work has spurred a new series which I am excited about. As well as entering the Parkin Drawing Prize again I will be exhibiting for the first time at this year’s New Zealand Art show which is on over Queen’s Birthday weekend in Wellington.

Being selected as a finalist in the prize, winning a merit award and finally selling the work during the exhibition has boosted my confidence. It’s encouraged me to take the risk of entering competitions and shows to get my work to a wider audience and to look for an exhibition space.  

Gill Newland

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