Q&A with Scott Gardiner - Art Collector

Scott Gardiner, Oscillate #14, 2016, acrylic, gloss and matte varnish on canvas, 122 x 122 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Palmer Art Projects

Jessa Melicor talks to Scott Gardiner about his recent show, Disappear Here.

Congratulations on your current solo show Disappear Here at Palmer Art Projects. I believe this is your largest solo show to date - would you be able to talk me through what you are exhibiting in your solo show?
My exhibition Disappear Here presented a series of paintings based around my relationship with the ocean. The large paintings in the show depict monochromatic seascapes overlaid with geometric forms, while the smaller works are abstract and comprise of gestural elements also overlaid with geometric shapes and patterns.

What is the process behind your current paintings?
The process behind these works vary depending on the individual piece. The larger paintings which include representational images of the ocean begin with a subtle silver wash over the surface of the canvas. This is done as the metallic fleck within the paint picks up the light and helps to mimic the movement of sunlight across the surface of the sea.

I then begin the painstaking process of painting a monochromatic seascape, pulled in tight enough to avoid any reference to landscape or a horizon line. For these ‘seascape’ paintings I have developed a rather particular method of construction devoid of any white paint. Instead I am using only black and clear gloss gel to thin out the paint and make it transparent. By doing this I am using the bright silver wash underneath as the light source and avoiding the mixing of black and white, creating a grey that tends to dull and flatten the image.

Once this aspect of the work is finished I use a process of masking and painting to complete the geometric elements that sit atop the seascape. These elements include a combination of flat colour with transparent gloss and matte gels, the coalition of which both catches and absorbs reflected light, again attempting to mimic the way light moves across the ocean surface.

The smaller, purely abstract pieces use a similar process but replace the representational seascape painting with large, gestural brushstrokes. These brushstrokes act as a counterpoint to the water, mimicking its movement and energy in a more simple and direct fashion.

How does the idea of geometry and form play into your practice?
With this body of work I am attempting to create a dialogue between two seemingly disparate and opposing entities, juxtaposing the flickering movement of the ocean surface with the more rigid geometric forms and contrasting areas of dark and light glaze. In this instance the geometric forms act as a metaphor for human logic and our attempts to use reason and science to provide answers to potentially unanswerable questions around life, death, meaning and purpose. A subtle battle ensues as the forms fade in and out, fighting for dominance while also seeking to create harmony.

As human beings we have a complex relationship with the ocean, all life came from it and two thirds of the surface of the earth is dominated by water. This relationship is being made more complex as the planet warms, sea levels rise and we face the potential of a planet becoming increasingly hostile to human life. On a more personal level, the ocean is my second home, having surfed for most of my life. This second home however, has provided me with numerous near-death experiences, chief among these surviving the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Having stared death in the face, I have attempted to find meaning in my mortality by using the tools of language, logic and reason. These paintings are an attempt to articulate this struggle, a struggle to attain solace and fight for air in a hostile and restless ocean.

You have recently collaborated with artists Evan Woodruffe and Glen Hayward at Auckland Art Fair with Paul Nache this year. How would you describe this collaborative process? Has it informed or changed your current practice, having worked closely with these artists?
The collaborative aspect of our installation at the Auckland Art Fair this year was mostly reliant on presentation and the exchange of ideas, rather than a direct collaboration on individual works. As our various practices differ greatly with respect to process and aesthetic we believed any attempt to directly combine our particular working methods into single, coherent pieces would be fraught with difficulty and run the risk of diluting rather than enhancing our individual strengths.

The collaborative process therefore, was reliant upon good communication around what each artist was producing and an attempt to use particular strategies to have the works coalesce. As painters Evan and I were able to use colour as a cohesive force while Glen being a carver/sculptor created hundreds of individual, handmade and handpainted nails. These objects were so convincing in their artifice that they were indistinguishable from the real thing. They would act as the stitching to weave the entire presentation together.

Being an artist is generally a quiet, individual pursuit, requiring long periods of sustained studio practice devoid of communication. Collaborating and working a part of a team was a refreshing experience.

What are you working on next?
I am currently working on new paintings to enter into a series of awards. The last two years I have had such a busy exhibition schedule it has been very difficult to commit time or work to the application of awards or residencies. I will then begin work on the third installment of my Three Oceans Project that will be exhibited at Paul Nache next year. Following this I will be creating paintings to be shown at Sydney Contemporary with Palmer Art Projects.

Jessa Melicor

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