Eye Candy: Tanya Hastings Gill
Mrs. Gill creates lush landscapes and enigmatic figures using paper, reflective light, cut paper silhouettes, color (via acrylic paint) and cast shadows in her work. Her work varies in scale and subject but is consistant in her committment to craftsmanship and exquisite beauty. Initially, I was drawn to her landscape pieces, which have a fairytale like quality and seem embued with a history of their own. Sometimes using a sheet of paper the size of a bed mattress, she painstakingly makes intricate incisions to create the illusion of a deep forest or sprawling mountain vista. Acrylic paint applied to the back of the paper (as well as to the wall behind the piece in installations) create a palpable atmosphere that changes with the light reflected between the surfaces. Cast shadows, reflective light and cut paper applied to the walls behind the hanging paper provide the viewer with changing vistas and the illusion of greater spatial depth as you peek from different vantage points between cut silhouettes. I think the effect is magical.
Comparatively, Tanya’s Under Skin series seems simplified at first glance - in some works single figures are cut from the paper – the pattern of their clothing rendered with deft precision revealing a featureless portrait that packs quite an emotional wallop. In other pieces, multiple figures mingle together - delineated by a single, hairline cut and combined with metallic foil and overlapping silhouettes in color. For me, this layered effect is evocative of memory and the transient way in which we recall particular events and experiences. This work in particular brings to mind the fugitive properties of cognizance and reflection, providing insight into mental snapshots of which we often only catch a fleeting glimpse. Her figurative pieces are powerful in a quiet, visceral way – Gill handles her materials with great sensitivity and is able to communicate visually with fluency.
Addendum: Tanya Gill was kind enough to write to me about her Underskin series, she descibes her work so beautifully:
“The Underskin series is a very subtle series, and
even viewed in person sometimes the details were missed. There is a bottom
layer of cut paper for each child, and with in the pattern/clothing part is
a scene or image. I was thinking about how moments define us, but how this
is unseen on the surface. I was also playing with the idea of “pattern”, as
in a pattern of behavior being established. An example is Sophie, who’s
under layer is a wall in a project in South Africa with the words “Remember”
written on it. It is an existing wall were some children were killed during
the Apartheid. Her dress pattern on the top layer is flowers composed of
tear shapes. She is probably the most emotionally wrenching- Raul has two
dogs fighting, Christine has willow leaves…. etc.”