Pauline Gutter :: Artist Statement


The last year or so has seen an unprecedented change in the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have become social monkeys, confined to social media; we live in our isolated bubbles, with limited social interaction and through Zoom meet-ups, online lectures and WhatsApp conversations that we know are being monitored; and social media at every turn. Now we walk through virtual galleries whilst experiencing second-hand artworks.

However, it is not just the last year that has seen systemic changes. We have been heading this way for some time. Before Covid we were on the edge of an economic disaster and the fall-out of this current crisis is yet to be seen. Corruption in our country and on global scale has become a norm and millions of jobs have been lost. Politically the world seems to be teetering on the brink of chaos, with extremism and erratic behaviour even more common. Environmentally we seriously risk being the first species to create our own mass extinction. Psychologically and sociologically, we are already a different species where hypersensitivity, depression and anxiety rule the day. Even our bodies have changed: with limited access to physical mobility and ever increasing “modern conveniences”, we are more fragile and less robust than our ancestors.

All this has led to a significant shift in how we act, see, look, make and think.

I love to be physically immersed in my art practice and this is reflected in my current work through large mark making and building up layers upon layers, literally embodying movement and gesture upon a surface. In rebellion to the strictures and confinement of our present condition, I celebrate movement, shifts in place and space and reflect upon the idea of people leaving and people coming back. My emphasis on fire, desiccation, disembowelment and degradation is another form of response to the fact that “the world has changed”.

Here I am directly challenging a normalcy that sees us engulfed in random images, “curated” by Artificial Intelligence and social media “influencers”. Sir Kenneth Clark, former director of the National Gallery in London once said that to begin to understand a painting he would sit with for it for an entire day. It is estimated that we are exposed to more images in a day through social and other media than our great-grandparents would have experienced in their entire lifetimes. We have superficial and interrupted interaction with our world where so much is competing for human attention.

In this exhibition, there is only two portraits with humans as subject: Waterwyser in touch with the ancient invisible waterways underneath the ground and Vainglory, with contemplative means well as one man-made structure, Time Machine: an antiquated movie projector becoming an unknown presence of a guillotine. For the rest, the focus is on the natural world, whether majestic or destructive. Here I am interested in nature; magical ley lines; and a time that was slower and, in the end, so much more human while at the same time innately elemental.