Ann Gale’s work is observational. She utilizes familiar models who sit for long periods of time in her studio in the Pacific Northwest, where good light is scarce for much of the year, thus making it a mutable element to contend with. As a result, the visage presented is one that captures gravity and its effect on the model, while chasing an elusive light that makes itself variably known. The artist struggles between the act of deep knowledge and familiarity with her models and the challenge of capturing them in transition as illumination shifts. The resulting completed canvases combine both the heavily worked adjustments in the contours of paint color and texture with the tonal elements that make up how we view and perceive light sources, particularly those reflecting off of the human body and its surroundings.
Those expecting any kind of traditional portraiture will be disappointed. Not because Gale doesn’t capture the model, but rather, her purpose doesn’t relate to the traditions of portrait painting, which historically originated in the commissioned depiction of patrons and powerful people for the purpose of showing-off wealth. This meant trying to achieve literalness with a consciousness effort to enhance the beauty of the sitter. Here, Gale fully embraces the notion that a painting is self-sufficient. It needn’t be in service of a pretty picture any more than be trying to convey a message or give an accounting of itself. What Gale is after is capturing the experience of being fully present and true to the moment with her model. These paintings are the artifacts of a lived experience, first and foremost, thereafter they can be viewed as art objects separate and apart from the original experience of communion between artist and sitter.
DOLBY CHADWICK GALLERY
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