Direct Observations: Ann Gale’s Portraits are Living Embodiments of the People She Observes over Time and Space

April 2021

The dark side of Paul Cézanne came out when he admonished a model who moved during a sitting. He said, “You wretch! You’ve spoiled the pose. Do I have to tell you again you must sit like an apple? Does an apple move?”

Ann Gale’s sitters are not apples. They are people she knows or comes to know during three-hour sittings over months and, intermittently, over years. She, they  and their relationships change over time. As they move (unlike the apple) their relationship to the space and the changing light is modified as well.

“I’m interested in the presence of my sitter and the sense of being with them,” she says. “The gesture and mass of them. The distance and quality of the space and light we are in. The intersection of these sensations is sometimes  clearer as they change over time.  

Ann Gale | Robert in Mother’s Chair, 2019 | Oil on Canvas | 48 x 42 inches
Ann Gale | Robert in Mother’s Chair, 2019 | Oil on Canvas | 48 x 42 inches

“During the process of observation, a face can be particularly magnetic as it carries constantly changing emotional expression,” continues Gale. “But I’m also urgently trying to see the connections between the colors in the face and the context. Though I am looking at the face I’m sometimes seeing it absorbed by the by the light and the marks.” 

Ann Gale | Shawna with Purple, 2020 | Oil on Mylar and Board | 14 x 11 inches
Ann Gale | Shawna with Purple, 2020 | Oil on Mylar and Board | 14 x 11 inches

The myriad marks of paint that make up her portraits cause the sitter to be part of the space, both coalescing from and dissolving into it. She comments, “I like to spend time with a painting, long enough that I can let go of the representation and experience the world of the painting. To inhabit the space and feel the light. The marks of paint have movement and the reaction of color creates a kind of pressure. The painting can have a simultaneity or interaction  between the representational expression, the physical paint and optical experience.”

Ann Gale | Gloria, 2017 | Oil on Canvas | 46 x 44 inches
Ann Gale | Gloria, 2017 | Oil on Canvas | 46 x 44 inches

Cézanne observed the unmoving apple. Gale observes her subject and all the tangible and intangible phenomena that surround and occupy it. “I begin a painting with fairly general observation of the figure in a situation. Something that has some weight in my mind,” she explains. “The painting will suggest other more abstract visual questions of shapes in space. It is a struggle to be objective and not fall into a prejudged way of making the figure. Following the movement of the figure and changing light helps my observation stay acutely tied to an objective question of seeing.”

Ann Gale | Portrait with Glasses, 2019 | Oil on Linen-Wrapped Masonite | 14 x 11 inches
Ann Gale | Portrait with Glasses, 2019 | Oil on Linen-Wrapped Masonite | 14 x 11 inches

Ann Gale: New Paintings will be shown at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, April 1 through May 1. —

Dolby Chadwick Gallery210 Post Street #205 • San Francisco, CA 94108 •
(415) 956-3560 • www.dolbychadwickgallery.com