by Cherie Louise Turner

Ann Gale | Shannon in Passage, 2016 | Oil on canvas | 48 x 42 inches

Ann Gale continues her decades-long exploration of portraiture and the figure in new paintings and several graphite-on-paper studies. Subjects, which include self-portraits, are on the older side, at times heavy-set, and not portrayed to be glamorous; these are ordinary faces and bodies. Expressions tend toward neutral or contemplative. And the palette is subdued, with moments of perhaps a bright crimson red.

Gale balances what could be a heavy and dark mood with her distinctive energetic brushwork and spectacular color. Toward the edges, her grid-like strokes are thicker and spaced apart, becoming smaller and tighter toward the center of the painting, until they become staccato-like. From afar, the images resolve, holding solidly together. As one approaches, the image starts to scatter, reading as the kind of abstract surface that calls to mind the pointillists.

Up close is when one can most fully appreciate Gale’s masterly hand. The combinations of brushwork and hues are bold, interesting and beautiful. The artist deftly creates a recognizable image from a dynamic collection of both languid and frenetic strokes. She shows this talent and agility in both large and small scales: there are many intimate portraits (in the 13” x 10” range) and a handful of larger (in the 50” x 43” range) full-figure pieces. The works on paper provide insight into Gale’s process: notably, she seems to carve out the image, as opposed to drawing it. It is not surprising that Gale studies and contemplates her subjects for very long periods of time (months, sometimes years). As such, the works gain a convincing emotional and meditative quality. 

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