Widely exhibited across Canada and the United States, Margaret Glew occupies a rare place in contemporary art. She produces paintings of great imaginative and intellectual depth and ambition. At a time when much contemporary abstract painting merely reiterates and repeats the conventions of well-trodden modernist tropes, under a cloak of ironic positioning, Margaret Glew’s work is like a beacon illuminating a path to an art very serious for our time. In doing so, his paintings embody a recognition of the immense possibilities of abstract painting as a viable and important practice, far beyond postmodern play. For this, his work will prove to be of art historical significance.
Margaret Glew works in series, groups of paintings with recognizable continuities that relate to a particular focus, mood or aspect of her process.
Sometimes a series can be rich in color, or at other times it can emphasize a more monotonous palette with dramatic tonal contrasts. At all times, she is committed to pushing the boundaries and possibilities of abstract painting.
For Margaret Glew, each painting is a journey. As she writes:
Painting is never done in a straight line. The road twists and turns often on its own, so that sometimes after a period of intense effort, I find myself at my starting point. Other times I go ahead. Seems fair to me. Painting is a journey and journeys are always more interesting when there are unexpected detours, when the journey itself and not the destination is the goal.
There is a continuous drive in her work, to take risks, to constantly explore, to be fearless and tireless in pursuit of what she shows, in fact, the endless possibilities of painting as a form of art. important art. Her immense achievement in the resulting paintings sets her apart as a major and important Painter, both in Canada and abroad.
The “journey” that Margaret Glew takes in each of her works is accompanied by a deep understanding and knowledge of the materials, the precedents, the possibilities of invention in painting. Her paintings are multi-layered, not only in terms of paint application and mark making, but also in the depth with which she uses visual language.
Glew’s artistic process has its roots in abstract expressionism. Following the example of the New York school, she works extensively on “all-over” composition, starting with a blank canvas, and without prejudice, working her way up to the finished work. Yet his work does not depend on any of the theoretical underpinnings of « classical » abstract expressionism – Pollock’s surrealist-derived automatism for example. Yes, his brushstrokes and marks are vigorous and executed with a directness and immediacy that makes the painting seem to « sing » and his paint application is very expressive – but it is not « expressionistic ». It has more in common with the reflective abstraction of Robert Motherwell than with the gestures of Jackson Pollock.
It is this quality of expressive reflection that is at the heart of Margaret Glew’s painting. The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote: “Language means when, instead of copying thought, it allows itself to be dismantled and recomposed by thought”.
Margaret Glew, through a constant reworking of the elements of painting – line, form, shape, surface, color, movement, stillness – essentially deconstructs abstract visual language to bring the constituents together again, to reveal the fundamental possibilities of language itself. -even. She does this in paintings that in their process integrity, vitality and expressive intelligence are consummated.
In her ambition for the possibilities of what paint can express, how paint can speak, Margaret Glew’s work stands out from so many contemporary abstractions.
It does not resort to the notions of appropriation or citation; his practice is to reinvent language in painting. This does not mean that a line, a sequence of colors, a shape she can use is previously unused or unique in history. Rather, it is how she merges the constituents of her pictorial elements into forms, passages, sequences that are forged both in the warmth and yet, at the same time, in the cold deliberation of her creative process. . If these elements are like words, she combines them into truly innovative, compelling and beautiful new formations and compositions that are the true equivalents of the giants of modernism. Rather than contenting herself with small variations on the work of previous generations, Margaret Glew dares to envision an art that can challenge the achievements of a Twombly, a Motherwell or a Tapies. In doing so, she represents the possibility that our present time in painting will be remembered for more than contextual manipulations of earlier language.
Geoffrey Nawn, Toronto 2016
Copyright Geoffrey Nawn 2016