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Margaret Glew

Margaret Glew

Gillian Reddyhoff

 

 

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If Margaret Glew's intention is to produce a body of purely abstract work, then she pulls it off—just. While pushing her own creative boundaries far beyond previous limits, she cannot abandon them completely. For this artist nature remains a touchstone, a thread that weaves its way through each and every one of these paintings.

But this is jumping the gun. No discussion about Glew's current work can ignore first impressions and these impressions are overwhelmingly informed by her use of colour. In paintings such as No Way Home, Fire and Rain and Wind over Water, the palette is anything but subtle and is dominated by blocks of pure orange and blue. This orange reappears many times in successive works including Too Close to the Ground and Incandescent, where its authority is mediated most usually by white or pink. Black is a constant too, sometimes appearing in a major role as in Any Way You Want, and Long Nights to provide the solid ground, the building block or, more mysteriously in Dropping Slow, as the endless void from which all things emerge or into which all things disappear. Even as a bit player in Too Close to the Ground and Incandescent its role is one of signifier and its spare symbolism provides a familiar almost comforting aspect to the work.

However, the inspiration and the driving force behind these paintings comes as a result of Glew's astute observations as well as her subliminal interaction with the natural world. Encountering landscape and distilling it to an almost pure form of colour relationships, the artist nevertheless retains linkages that ground the work in the here and now. Her reference points are the sounds and symbols of weather and weather patterns and their effect on our environment. Rendered simply as cloud forms, arrows, trees and the sun and the rain, these elements remain, in varying degrees, as real and as close to us as they have been even from the early years of our lives.

This link to the natural world has always informed much of our personal geography and so the threat to its ongoing existence can hardly be ignored by an artist who has spent much of her considerable practice observing and interpreting the landscape.

The complexity of this relationship is particularly apparent in Without a Net and several of the untitled paintings from 2010. Dense and layered, the subject of these works appears as almost impenetrable. Lines, grids and reworked areas generate a rather less benevolent feeling that reminds us that landscape may be imagined and interpreted in numerous ways.

Utilizing a distinct and personal vocabulary Margaret Glew has created a body of work that engages us in a contemporary and timely dialogue. By re-examining and re-interpreting her subject matter in new and provocative ways, we too are forced to ponder it anew and in so doing, to reevaluate our own place within it.

 

Gillian Reddyhoff

Gillian Reddyhoff is currently the curator of the Government of Ontario Art Collection at the Archives of Ontario. Formerly a curator at the City of Toronto's Market Gallery, she has taught courses in Canadian art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, written about contemporary Canadian artists and curated numerous historic and contemporary art exhibitions.

 

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