The Molesworth Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of recent work by Gillian Lawler, opening on April 7th. The work forms part of her ongoing investigation into the abandoned town of Centralia in the US state of Pennsylvania. The town began to burn deep under its foundations in the 1960s when a seam of coal was accidentally set alight. The coal seam burned so fiercely that sinkholes appeared on the surface and noxious gases began to spew out through cracks in the town’s streets. Finally abandoned by all bar a couple of inhabitants in the 1980s, the fires still burn beneath the town to this day.
The former head of collections at IMMA, Catherine Marshall, has written of Lawler’s work that it is pervaded by unease. “It hangs like microscopic atoms of pollution in the air, lingers around multiple ‘blind’ windows, seeks to find a foothold under the high rises, only to collapse into the hollow grid-like like spaces that should be their foundations, and attempts to settle on ground that is subtly curved, billowing or cratered.” The work is marked by “strange blooms of faded colour, dusty pinks, yellows and greens that glow uncertainly against almost monochrome ground colours, surprised occasionally by more accentuated patchworks that remind one simultaneously of Colin Middleton and of illustrated children’s books.”
Yet Marshall also maintains that Lawler’s incredibly subtle treatment of colour, texture and scale, “make her work a celebration of everything that is good in painting. The work is uplifting because it is always uplifting to find artists with the courage to address difficult issues. When they do it so subtly and effortlessly, we all benefit. The last words in relation to Lawler’s painting are a repetition of those attributed to the great German Modernist Mies Van Der Rohe on good architecture: ‘less is more’.”
Lawler was born in Kildare in 1977. She received a BA in Fine Art from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, in 2000. She has won numerous awards including the Hennessy Craig Award, RHA Gallery Annual exhibition in 2007, the Whytes Award, RHA Gallagher Gallery in 2007 and the overall winner of the Open Selection Exhibition Award at the Eigse Arts Festival in 2009. Other awards include a Kildare Arts Services Award 2015/2013/2011/2009, an Arts Council Bursary Award 2009, and Culture Ireland Award 2011. She was shortlisted for the Beers Lambert Contemporary, Thames and Hudson publication, 100 Painters of Tomorrow in 2013, the Celeste International Art Prize in 2012 and a Merit prize from the Golden Fleece Award in 2013.