Lydia Gifford & John Divola
Art Basel | Feature
15 June18 June 2017

At this year’s edition of Art Basel, Laura Bartlett Gallery introduces a two person presentation with artist John Divola and Lydia Gifford.

Palimpsest presents a two-person presentation of photographic works from the mid-1970’s by American artist John Divola (B. 1949, Los Angeles) and new sculptural and wall based works by British artist Lydia Gifford (B. 1979, Cheltenham).

This presentation brings together two artists whose works share an assertion of process, material, experimental will, impulse, incidence and authenticity. John Divola’s “Vandalism” works, from his seminal series from 1973 made whilst a student at UCLA are black and white photographs that convey open-ended experimentation, improvisation and hypothesis. In these images, Divola acts as mark maker, arranger and orchestrator, as well as recorder. He responds as a photographer to his own actions as a painter, sculptor and performer, the sprayed mark, the daub, the tear, the cut. His objects and surfaces appear to move between intention and carelessness, between action and entropy.

In direct dialogue with these works by John Divola, we are presenting new sculptural and wall based works by Lydia Gifford. Gifford uses the perceived limits of her chosen materials as guidance. Her work grows from an inquiry into the physicality of painting and, from the activity of application, layering and proportioning, this forms amass and take on sculptural volumes.

Akin to Divola, the work is directed by decisions that are driven by their own emerging logic, order and momentum. Spontaneous actions and autonomous traces collide in Gifford’s solitary studio practice. For both artists, there is a defining removal of the body, yet a strong and visceral presence through its very absence, and an abstraction, in Gifford’s case a very tactile abstraction, anchored always to a subjective architectural relationship.

Like a palimpsest, Divola and Gifford’s works’ integrity is based on the understanding of their temporality, evidence of action is clear but what came before, that which pre-existed, remains unclear and ambiguous. Gifford’s objects hold the impact of previous actions or impulses, a period of time accrues until a reencountering can take place, just as Divola re-enters abandoned houses to encounter once more his previous mark-making and architectural gestures. Layers accumulate and a site or object is again activated.

Gifford’s application of paint is intuitive, improvised and layered. Reactionary marks are textured and contingent on the uneven folds of the supports, the structure of accumulation. Material is left to be itself, with incidental folds and creasing from their handling when staining and rips may occur. Conscious, spontaneous action determines the outcome of the surface, her marks activate, claim and unify.