Meet Ottawa-based visual artist, Gillian King By Laurena Finéus.
Gillian King is a painter, art educator, and art therapist-in-training originally from Treaty One Territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba and holds a Master in Fine Arts from the University of Ottawa (2016). Over the years, she has shown in multiple galleries and participated in artist residencies nationally and internationally.
Beyond her art practice, King has a keen interest in the wellness and care industry. Understanding how she can use her artistic skills to help others is crucial to her work. She is currently in the process of obtaining her Art Therapy certification through the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and works with seniors living in long term care at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, CareFor Health and Community Services, and the Dementia Society (Ottawa, On).
As an active member of our cultural community, King is also an artist mentor through the Ottawa School of Art, BEING Studio, the University of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Art Gallery.
Practice and processes
For King’s artistic practice the natural world and our relationship to it is its core element. Through her complex abstract paintings, she addresses our fragility, mortality, and histories with other living beings and the Earth. As a way to continue this conversation, she draws from elements of ecology, palaeontology, and earth-based spirituality.
Her thorough process begins from outside of her studio. King personally grows and gathers raw materials such as earth sediments, plants, and flowers all coming from her garden. This leads to the use of her hands to work with her materials in order to gain an intimate understanding of them. King focuses on using materials that are part of her daily life. She stays away from conventional painting tools and uses her physical body to apply these materials onto large canvases. Actually, King’s artistic journey started as a sculptor and this led to her pushed interest towards natural materials in her paintings.
When she selects her natural pigments, their physical properties and symbolic relevance are key. King adopts printmaking and fibre art techniques to create repeating imprints of colour and form, using pigments coming from insects, rusted metals, plant and vegetable matter. These imprints inform how each composition is finalized using oil and acrylic paint materials.
‘’My hope is that when viewers experience my paintings they will feel that the marks made by my hands could be made by their hands. I want them to be able to imagine what it is like to move the wax, pigments, plant materials around the canvas as I did. I hope that the familiarity of materials used combined with the visual unease created by contrasting colours and shapes will prompt viewers to question their own relationship between their bodies and the natural world.’’
– Gillian King, Create Magazine 2018
You can currently find a virtual tour of King’s solo exhibition, As Above, So Below, on Galerie Annexe’s website. In this exhibition of new works, Gillian King talks to the patterns that binds lifeforms at all scales. Equally, it is a call to look around to recognize the multiple ways in which all life on Earth – human and other– is mutually dependent. As Above, So Below takes on even greater meaning. It asks us to consider the webs and relations of care that are necessary for all species’ mutual survival and thriving.