A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Guillaume Gellot
Thierry Goldberg Gallery: You studied 3D Animation and Design – how did this work inform your perspective on painting and background in sculpture, and more specifically, the concepts behind your work?
Guillaume Gelot: Well, in many different ways. For one I think I see/think better in three dimensions. Secondly, 3D software is full of visuals and concepts I can steal from. The grid pattern is used to better visualize the dimensions of a wall. Sometimes the grid will be tiled in a way that each cell represents an actual dimension like a square foot and sometimes this dimension will be written on the texture itself. This is one source for my grid paintings. The concept of the grid becomes more related to the idea of painting as object and practice. Another example would be that in 3D software, particularly the one I was using, a strong difference is made between objects and surfaces, because different properties are applied to both. An object will behave differently then let’s say, a wall. So for computational purposes the 3D program will differentiate between surfaces (walls, floors, etc.) and objects and color code them differently. This is kind of where you see the difference between my black grid paintings and my hyper yellow canvas sculpture objects.
TG: One of your works in the exhibition, Eyeliner (2020), is a variation on Josef Albers’ series Homage to the Square. So much of your work could be called a homage to a square (or a grid), how do you see your approach to the square similarly or differently than you think Albers approached it? Additionally, what drew you to do your own rendition of Albers’ work and retitle it “Eyeliner” instead of keeping with Albers’ title?
GG: Albers was playing with the effects of color and what happens when placed together within his “tunnel” template, I’m looking at it much more graphically and binary (black/white). My intention via the omission of color is not one of negation but a homage in itself. The title “Eyeliner” fits the theme of the show and – it points to the lines in the painting, to the optical experience of looking at it (your eyes follows the lines and the concentric shapes) and to the precise application of liquid on a surface with a hand brush tool (painting, makeup). In this show, particularly, I chose a certain theme and the title “Eyeliner” channels it. All the titles for the paintings in this show are: “Paris”, “Eyeliner”, “Champagne” and “Gem”. From these words other words may be deduced, like, female, luxury, French. Those last words are approximate descriptors of the theme of the show - hence “Eyeliner”.
TG: The works in the exhibition are primarily shaped canvases – the “Paris” series looks cut in grid lines, and the “Gem” series looks almost like mathematically random crystals and shapes. How did you come about making shaped canvases? Is there a mathematical order to these? Or is it more intuited?
GG: The shaped grid and “Gem” paintings also come, in a way, from 3D software. The “Paris” paintings work in a fashion where a grid is present but the form is rather random. The “Gem” paintings work in the same way except that instead of subdividing the painting and making a shaped canvas via a grid template, the grid remains but it’s intersected and outlined with diagonal lines. I realized that if you start with a canvas and cut off the sides and edges along the perimeter using diagonal lines in a certain fashion you get what looks like a crystalline structure, a gem. There is no mathematical order or formula associated with the generation of the painting/stretcher form. There are certain parameters and aesthetic choices that drive the order but it is very intuited. I generally try stay away from figuration, except not always, such is the case with the “Gem” paintings.
TG: The “Gem” series showcases your use of painted fractals or refractions (diagonal lines that intersect your perpendicular grid lines), reminiscent of the fractal slicing of gems. Can you tell me about these refractions in your work?
GG: In this 3D software, you can break up a surface by subdividing it into different partitions via a line. At one point, I started subdividing my painting surfaces in a similar manner and treating each separate planar facet independently. When I started making gem shaped canvases I noticed that this effect of spatial partitioning could be used to mimic the same refractions you see when looking through a faceted crystal.
TG: The majority of your works are black and white, but as time has progressed you have begun to include neon colors such as yellow, blue, and pink. How does color factor into your work? And why the choice of neon?
GG: Well I started out using black and white because I didn’t want it to be decorative and I was trying to express concepts that had nothing to do with color. Over time, I started using color in a very color-coded way – black is for the space paintings, neon reflective yellow for the object paintings, green for nature paintings, pink for love paintings, etc. This color-coding is less strict now but still there in a way. I use neon (colors) because they have high visibility and are optically attractive and contrast well against the color black.
TG: Your works in the exhibition are very meticulous; do you have a specific process that you use for all of your work? Or does it vary?
GG: It varies, but the process for the “Paris” and “Gem” paintings is the same.
I paint the black squares with a brush on top of white gesso. I don't paint the white lines. It's a conceptual approach to painting, I'm just covering a surface with very minimal parameters on a custom surface. I'm filing in space, like a machine, but the hand can still be seen up close. I have to paint the squares a few times in order to get a flat black color so it takes a bit of patience. There's a certain element of Japanese Zen/craft in those paintings.
The “Gem” paintings are a spatial take on the “Paris” paintings. The refractions are like looking through a faceted gem. I like to think of them as floating thought jewels.
I plan on making more “Paris” paintings and I'm but developing a similar series where I paint the grid with fluorescent pink on top of a white background, fast and loose.