On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at 11.30am Joseph Gallivan interviews painter Ellen George about her show “Slow Gestures” which is at PDX Contemporary Art until May 27, 2023. George talks about painting on birch plywood panels that warp off the wall, her use of precious metal styluses in drawing lines, and how she incorporates Tai Chi movements into this new bigger work, which is still quite small.
This interview was recorded on May 9, 2023, on an iPhone 14 pro and engineered by KBOO volunteer Ray Bodwell. https://kboo.fm/blog/55224
FROM THE PRESS RELEASE:
Articulating an expansive open feeling within intimate scale drives my practice.
Evidence of my hand is important, such as fingerprints on surfaces and the irregularities of panels, each uniquely hand-contoured. These qualities and a certain delicacy are distinguishing characteristics of my work.
The ultra-thin (1/32”) wood that I paint on has a natural, sculptural warp. Responding to these gentle curves I draw in sweeping loose gestures to begin the outlines for my panel shapes. I go for arcs and loops - positive lines and forms that are emergent and buoyant. I think of lotus leaves, beans, petals and clouds.
I hand-shape my panels. Their scale relates to my body - hand, face and torso. They are held in my fingers, resting in my arms as I work in silence - listening for where to draw the silverpoint and metalpoint lines. The paint flows up to and over these delicate bits of geometry as I follow the brush.
Painting is how I live my day-to-day.
Gestures and their resulting lines and brushstrokes also derive from another daily practice, Tai Chi. In Tai Chi I find increasing mental and physical focus and sensitivity.
The feet are rooted, like trees, to the ground, drawing energy up from the earth while moving slowly to notice the circular, spiral body movements directing energy through the torso and outward.
I see the coalescence of my studio practice and Tai Chi practice in my paintings.
Last winter while re-reading the Ursula K. Le Guin Earthsea canon I came anew to a beloved passage where Le Guin writes of the wizard Ged’s lifelong pursuit of learning.
Ged aligns with nature to listen and let her speak and lead to understanding. Immediately I recognized this process, this way, that I have come to trust, to rely on, in my studio and in my Tai Chi practice.
Always learning, I take time and listen closely for when to move my arms and body, where to make a mark in painting. I yield to the mystery of understanding.
- Ellen George
“From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to
learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”
- Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea
FROM THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE
THE BIG SPRING ASK
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Joseph Gallivan has been a reporter since 1990. He has covered music for the London Independent, Technology for the New York Post, and arts and culture for the Portland Tribune, where he is currently a Feature Writer. He is the author of two novels, "Oi, Ref!" and "England All Over" which are available on Amazon.com