Seattle based artist Emily Gherard creates subdued process-based work that reads as abstract landscapes, but which is actually rooted in figurative drawing. Her paintings balance dense accretions of marks with expanses of negative space, often in dark or muted tones. "I am a Northwest painter, which means that I love the gray and the gloom and the subtle earthy colors," she says. There's something indelibly human to the way the marks accrue over the surfaces of her work— like a record of habit or compulsion or like the gestalt effect of tiny domestic tasks keeping a home together.
In Untitled (Quiddity) (2016) we see a dense pillar of black marks with a series of lighter grayish pink marks around its perimeter, all on a dull cream background. There's a micro/macro play between the pillar shape and the marks used to construct it— the shape becomes the quiddity of a line. When I first saw this piece in the Bridge Productions booth at the Seattle Art Fair I was enamored with the back of the painting which had been painted a fluorescent pink and was casting a dayglo halo on the white wall. The ethereal edges boost the weight and gravity of the marks on the surface.
In Untitled (Mid Drift) (2016) Gherard has used staples, a familiar painting material that typically remains unseen, to create a dense monochromatic pattern of steely gray lines. The mass of staples mimic the graphite marks in her other work. The title seems to reference the way the bottom of the shape sags, or drifts, but can also be read as a play on 'midriff,' a term typically reserved for policing women’s bodies.
Out of Embers (2017), like Untitled (Quiddity), uses a painted pink back to achieve a subtle glow, which cleverly mirrors the crimson emitting from the middle of the darkest black marks. Similar to the way the title can work as both a campfire reference and a metaphor for exhaustion, the red glow could be understood as the last bit of a wood fire, or the heat of a beating heart. Gherard recently became a parent which she says forced her to work even harder and push through exhaustion. "I go to my studio if I have ten minutes. I go to my studio if I have an hour." It's a popular sentiment among artist parents and she is fearlessly vocal about the fact that parenting transformed her artistic practice: "There are so many things that I'm better at."