The Paintings of Rachel Gallagher
There are places where our imaginations want to journey. Places that feed our dreams and arouse our curiosity. Such places take us beyond the commotion of the everyday. It can be difficult to find these places, our memories are clogged with debris, we remember the pleasure of shifted consciousness, but find the location slippery.
The first pleasure when encountering the paintings of Rachel Gallagher is to relish the physicality of the work – the paint, colour, texture and composition. The delight is rewarding and satisfying. She applies paint in deep glazes, gritty surface and thick impasto. There are swift brush strokes, and sharp scratches. The push and rub of the finger against paint is self evident. The reality of the painting is satisfying, it is physical, it is optical. The saturated colour – salmons and tangerines, unbleached creams, inky blues the colour of starlit nights, greys, blacks and a myriad of whites – the visual leads the narrative, taking us to the psychological territory of the paintings.
Often the paint is scrapped off, returning to the source of the work. Construction, destruction, and further invention all combine until there is a presence into which the artist invites us to travel.
Beyond the sensory there are other rewards. One is drawn across the edge of experience to a memory – a seascape, a landscape, a piece of architecture ambiguously pictured – that takes us into a world that is beyond reality. Many of the paintings suggest a calm, idyllic place, while in others there is restlessness and animation. Just as we think we have reached these painted destinations reality slips and slides and we are lost again until we can once again grasp the visual narrative.
These images, invented by the artist, are almost recognisable and yet they are not exactly identifiable. The work is richly suggestive, almost familiar and ambiguous at the same time. We must exercise our imaginations and suspend conscious thought in order to fully appreciate the quality of the work.