practice has parallels to someone like Poussin for instance, in that they have both constructed an artiﬁcial environment for their image making. it’s still-life using humans. my student paintings were still-lifes that were full of quotes from other artists, speciﬁcally Chardin and Walt Disney. i don’t see myself straying into such overt territory again, it seems a little too easy to go down that path and play those games with the viewer. FW i had never thought of poussin’s paintings and Wall’s photographs as ‘still life using humans’, but you’re right, they are, and also because time stands still in their arenas – allegorical time, or the ennui of suburban daytime. i’ve always thought of Wall’s The Destroyed Room (1978) as a still life, a post tipping point sort of composition, an arranged collapse. there’s arguably a detachment in poussin and Wall though. that’s not something i pick up in your paintings. is this something to do with the physical and emotional distance they set up between themselves and their subjects do you think? and by the same token, does the still life’s closeness oﬀer up the opportunity to empathize in ways that poussin and Wall’s images do not – but that chardin’s still lifes do? JG i agree with you about both Wall and Poussin, there is an emotional distance, a coolness about the work of each of them that’s certainly lacking in my work. i think that comes down to the fundamental approach of each artist. the creative engine for each of them seems to me to be an intellectual one, clear ideas precisely executed. For me it’s a little diﬀerent. i feel more like i’m chasing something less knowable, it’s more like a process of excavation and my ideas seem to crystallize through the process of making. FW could you explain how ambiguity seems to be reinforced at diﬀerent levels of your painting? that is, if your paintings hover somewhere in-between still life and portraiture, is this ambiguity reinforced by the way in which you paint, inbetween painterly and photographic representation? JG i see my style of rendering as being ‘documentary’. i have a complete ambivalence towards photorealism, it’s not something that really interests me. i try to avoid being overly fussy, don’t use those super-small brushes or feel obliged to paint every detail. i just do what i think is necessary to convince the eye that it’s looking at something that has a life and that is valid and concrete. Once again, that’s all tied up with my urge to do justice to a subject that appears ﬂawed or pathetic and easy to overlook. i’m aware that there is something ridiculous about the notion of me trying to assert human rights for a lump of dirty old plasticine, but as you picked up on when you visited my studio, everything i’m doing here has a background hum of politics. it’s not overt by any means, but i do feel like my politics are implied/implicit by the very nature of what i’m trying to achieve. FW i’d like to ask you something about abjection and the breakdown of meaning to try and understand the paintings in the exhibition a little better though you may disagree and think that the writing of Georges Bataille and Julia kristeva doesn’t come into them? JG Bataille has some relevance to me personally, also Pasolini. FW are the objects you make in some way informed by pasolini’s ﬁlm of the roman underclass? JG Are you referring to the movie Accattone (1961)? i haven’t seen that movie for twenty years but my memories of it are largely sympathetic, particularly the aﬀecting awkwardness of the acting. there is an underlying warmth to his treatment of his subjects. i remember being hugely aﬀected by Salo (1975) too. i left the cinema in a very agitated and disturbed state, and it took me weeks to process what i had seen. it left me with a sense of political indignation that has stayed with me. i’m not a big one for immersing myself in too much philosophy, and i’m wary of too much psychoanalysis. i like to stay informed but try to keep my thinking about my painting grounded. For instance, this notion of Kristeva’s of ‘abjecting the maternal’ just makes my heart sink a little. But the idea of the abject being something that is the underbelly of society, something that confronts and is at odds with it, is at the core of what i’m chasing.
56 AmBiguOuS PRACtiCES
Catalogue by Frances Woodley