SEPTEMBER is pleased to present, Aegis, a solo exhibition with Ashley Garrett. The exhibition will include over fifteen of her smallest paintings, measuring 4 x 6 inches, and 2-4 of her largest paintings, measuring 94 x 57 inches. The two scales mark the physical extremity of her practice, demonstrating her interest in both intimate and distant perspectives. Regardless of the dimension of her surface, and evident in the attentiveness of her mark-making, Garrett’s gaze maintains an intense proximity. The detail of her work is not achieved through rendering, but through the varying movement and scale of brushwork, as well as congested interaction of color. These are abstracted landscapes derived not from nature (though the outdoors deeply impacts Garrett and literally surround her studio), but from an emotive and psychological space.
Garrett writes, “There’s such a challenge in that continual flattening and deepening that rotates around us when we’re outside, and that’s what I’m interested in discovering through painting space. Not a literal depiction of land but a quality of feeling held by it as it spins around you in time and light.”
Her compositions whirl between receding and frontal subjects that we can best understand as the experience of standing in a natural environment; a snapped branch underfoot, the rough bark of nearby pine, a curved hillside, and a distant horizon. We are both near and far, our perception moving through a conscious state of simultaneity.
Garrett writes, “We are here now, at a moment to look backwards and forwards at the same time and how golden it all seems, and everything is close and altered and time is rushing forward.”
All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These things were the things that bounded me;
And I could not touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My Breath came short, and scarce at all.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay Renascence
However, Garrett’s landscapes are not versions of landscapes; they are states of being made visually manifest through the suggestion of a natural space opening and closing. The movement of her brushwork imbues her compositions with liquid energy and freedom from stasis, or definition.
The title of Garrett’s show, Aegis, is itself unfixed. Historians disagree over the origins and specifics of this shifting symbol in Greek mythology. It is a shield, an animal skin, a roaring sound. It is both Zeus’ violent windstorm and protection for gods and mortals. Its nature is uncertain, however, its purpose is to safeguard.
One can’t help but wonder if the physical and mental exertion of Garrett’s process, the energetic pushing of her medium, and the suggestive but allusive nature of her compositions, might concoct into an incantation. Resulting in a thing that has its own temperaments and qualities. All of this she does, Garret writes, “while the paintings look.”