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Painting Catalog for "Urban Vibration"

@ Seattle Art Museum Gallery, October 2023

About the Exhibition

Elizabeth Gahan’s vibrant and detailed paintings explore relationships between nature and the built environment, public space and personal experience, as well as geometric and organic forms. The paintings' vantage points put the viewer inside the landscape. Viewers become the protagonist inhabiting the space depicted and are invited to imbue the image with their own experiences of the built environment. 

Gahan’s process-oriented paintings employ a variety of materials and techniques to create layered, even 3-dimensional, painting surfaces. Watery backgrounds are beautifully surreal and ephemeral while buildings are rendered with translucent walls representing our surroundings as continuously in flux. Saturated palates used throughout depict natural and built environments as extensions of one another, inextricably intertwined.    

The architecture is a scaffolding creating opportunities for abstraction and manipulating materials. The latticework of simple perspective lines is the sub-structure for the paint and gel applications to permeate and flourish. Her painting process is a push and pull between where to let the image fall apart or fall flat and where to push the illusion of depth or build up a more solid presence. It is about achieving a sense of balance in the composition that feels complete, while leaving the imagery unresolved. 

In this body of work, urban spaces feature architecture with strong grid-like geometry. The imagery is familiar, yet non-specific. In this way, the imagery is less about an exact location and instead about a broader shared experience of our built surroundings. These architectural forms are like building blocks, stacked and multiplied across many cities, ubiquitous to the human experience.  While the built environment is depicted with delicate shading and intricate line work, it is the foliage rendered in 3D gel medium that literally pushes forward to take center stage.

Gahan has incorporated a new element in her process, at times adding an overlay of radiating lines and circles enhanced with spray paint which further pushes the aspects of abstraction in her work. The additional layer infuses the imagery with radiating energy and a sense of expansion.  

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