“…my intention is to create a disorienting sense of history…”
– Julie Gladstone
I happened upon the work of abstract painter Julie Gladstone during the last open studio event at Walnut Studios a few weeks ago. Located at 83 Walnut Avenue just south of King Street, the studio has been operating as an art space for just over 3years and is the creative home to around 40 artists working in an impressive range of media.
The abstract catalyst behind Gladstone’s vibrant and deeply textural works started to make sense to me when I noticed a nearly decimated can of Arizona Green Tea in her studio space. The fragmented remains of the aqua sky and sweetly graphic cherry blossoms were surreptitiously perched next to her business cards.
Struck with inspiration for the well-worn theme of decay while exploring the industrial wastelands of the entropic paradise we call Montreal, she began innocently enough by editing these departures into contemporary landscape paintings. Eventually, as instinct began to replace representation, her vision contracted within these well-explored degenerate panoramas to focus on accidental encounters with composition. Gradually Gladstone’s method; a combination of liberal additions of latex, oil and spray paint combined with an archeologically imbued chiseling process; began to unleash her from the creative bindings of representation. She was released into a self-described alchemical process of abstract painting.
For Gladstone it seems as though the very act of painting is mimicry of the cycle of change in the urban environment. What started as an exploration of decay has become more about becoming. Imagine the painter engaged in the supernal chronicling of the ever-evolving assimilation and reincarnation of copious random visual stimulus around her.
Looking out beyond her curly blond hair Gladstone winces at the need to justify herself as a painter. She pulls her knees to her chest curling up in relaxive defense, “In a culture so saturated by images trying to sell,” she begins, “why should I have to justify making images for the sake of beauty?” The emotional intensity of her process is evident in the vivid, heavy concentrations of colour and simultaneous patches of violent reduction. I can’t help but notice that her own interpretations of her practice- ideas of life, impermanence, rebirth- mirror eastern philosophy.
Emotionally her creations are the collage of experience and potentiality found in early expressionism. Her excessive use of materials makes one stop to consider making a comparison to the newly baptized “extreme painters” on show in Montreal this summer, but there is still insinuation of order. Her sometimes systematically carved lines and caked on surfaces evoke an aging Piet Mondrian (think Boogie-Woogie) with a Tammy Fay make-over. Thankfully this fresh-faced artist conceives of this painterly style of beauty as one better left on wooden panels.
Julie Gladstone works out of Walnut Studios in Toronto.