"After a period exploring the notion of restraint–paring down her palette and limiting the number of marks–Elizabeth Gilfilen has returned to epic struggle. In her pulsating new large-scale canvases, Gilfilen pits clashing colors against one another in snaking layers and agitated line, filling once pristine areas with murky, mark-cancelling clots of paint. She is a painter who thrives on struggle, and during these tumultuous times Gilfilen’s brand of angst and intensity seems just right. She has a show opening in November 2017 at TWFineart in Brisbane, Australia, and her work is available in the Tiger Strikes Asteroid Flat Files, in Brooklyn. Here are some snaps from a recent visit to her studio in Industry City."
(link to exhibition images)
"Gilfilen’s dynamic compositions with no fixed viewpoint are animated. The paint roils and seethes across the surface in seemingly perpetual motion. Within the picture plane, intersecting lines and conflicting colors create an undeniable energy. These paintings appear as a conflagration, a dustup, and an apparition. The eye rarely has a place to rest. Within the melee, a form may emerge: an insect, bones, or a tree...One of the joys experienced when looking at Gilfilen’s paintings is wrestling between two forces: On the one hand, viewers may try to identify a recognizable shape; on the other hand, they may find themselves just taking in the painting itself, surrendering to the spectacle. Gilfilen is aware of the seemingly contradictory forces in her work, and how they may undo or undermine each other."
Breathing Room: ArtRx NYC, Jillian Steinhauer, Hyperallergic. May 19, 2015.
Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Elizabeth Gilfilen, Jason Karolak and Rachael Wren
May 15 – June 19, 2015
Anne Russinof. "Mind's Eye (or Ten Ways to Float)," Curating Contemporary, September 2014.
"Ethereal and buoyant, or sensual and physical: the two tendencies are seemingly at odds. All four attributes are inherent in these selected works by Andrea Belag, Emily Berger, Rick Briggs, Denise Gale, Elizabeth Gilfilen, Zachary Keeting, Victor Kord, Paul Pagk and Susan Wanklyn. I became curious about the high-wire acts of these artists when some of my own gesture-based abstractions became unmoored from the edges of the canvas. These painters make the physicality of their marks the prime subject while liberating their forms to float freely. All of their work is animated by a love of gesture, and the use of negative space to set it off. As such, they all share a certain graphic quality but never yield completely to flatness; evidence of the hand is always present. Belag, Keeting, Berger, Wanklyn and Pagk use negative space to invite a conversation between their structures. Briggs, Kord, Gale and Gilfilen allow a single form to take center stage, no matter the degree of complexity. These painters create images that stick to the mind’s eye, almost like an after-image, ephemeral but solid."
Morgan Lehman Gallery, Conversations
Curated by Sharon Louden
July 9 – August 22, 2014
Featuring work by: David Ryan and Jean Shin, Timothy Nolan and Cordy Ryman, Amy Rathbone and Louise Belcourt, Zachary Keeting and Samantha Bittman, Elizabeth Gilfilen and Laurie Reid
Paul Behnke. “Studio Visit w/ Elizabeth Gilfilen,” Structure and Imagery, July 9, 2014.
"Gilfilen paints large canvases with striking, sophisticated color palettes and seemingly frenzied paint application that make an urgent case for the continued relevancy of gestural abstraction. The scrawled marks congeal to form imposing masses, that provide the structure and focus of the compositions, then break away again into hazy fields of color or interlacing tendrils. At times Gilfilen's colors are inviting, and in another work, they can be heavy and disturbing but there is always a sense of movement and even beauty in the paintings. The placement of color combined with a variety of surface holds the gaze and promises new discoveries upon each subsequent viewing. This attention to surface quality and variation (technique) is something that is hard won through hours of attention and studio time."
Yaddo Fellowship, Saratoga Springs, NY
Jonathan Greene. Exhibition essay for solo exhibition. The Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ, 2012. (excerpt below)
"To Elizabeth Gilfilen, the blank canvas is an urgent lure. She doesn’t want to begin; she has to begin. Gilfilen starts her paintings by setting up an atmospheric color that defines the mood of the work. Without a defined palette for each piece, she reacts to the fields of color as she works and selectively integrates new hues that expand on the expected potential color combinations. Gilfilen uses color to provoke our private discomforts and public visual pleasures. Her paintings share a sense of immediacy, a result of her style of creating art that reflects her openness to chance and accident.
Elizabeth Gilfilen is also uniquely interested in spatial complexity and layering. Her generous use of negative space serves to enhance the raw power that comes from the core of the painting. While the activity within Gilfilen’s paintings can be fierce and active, a closer look reveals great restraint and a very concise, specific set of visual cues that she uses to create these abstract representations. Her paintings can appear volatile and deliberate at the same time and piecing that puzzle together results in paintings that are anything but arbitrary."
Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ
Two Moons, solo exhibit in the Liminal Space
November 12 – December 17, 2011
"These visceral paintings embrace the magnetic tie between maker and object. A frequent, rhythmic approach to painting creates a physical and psychological bond with the work. For Elizabeth, painting is a collision of two entities, which are engaged in an alternating power struggle. The title of this exhibit, “Two Moons,” refers to recent evidence that the earth once had two orbiting masses that became unstable and merged into one. Like the gravitational pull of two bodies in an awkward negotiation, this series of large-scale works capture a compression of time and energy. Through an aggressive search and discovery, multiple approaches to the painting cast a truce between temporal structure and corporeal desire."
Sharon L. Butler. “Elizabeth Gilfilen: Pugilist Painter,” Two Coats of Paint, November 16, 2011. (link to full post)
"For Elizabeth Gilfilen painting is a collision, an aggressive search in which the object and maker are intimately, irrevocably entwined. Gilfilen's exploration of piercing color and gestural abstraction continues in her exhibition of new large-scale work at Gallery Aferro this month. In many of her untitled paintings (sorry I can't refer to specific ones) Gilfilen wrestles images from a thicker scrum of agitated brushwork than in previous work, but in other less vigorously-worked paintings like "Sit" and "Cricket Fix" a more relaxed direction emerges. Gilfilen is the opposite of a casualist--clearly she likes a good skirmish--and her new paintings look terrific--bolder and more challenging than earlier work. "Two Moons," the title of the exhibition, refers to recent evidence that the earth used to have two orbiting masses which eventually became unstable and merged into one. But I imagine they didn't go without a long and interesting struggle."
Benjamin Genocchio. “A Show Goes Heavy on a Traditional Medium Yet Feels Fresh,” The New York Times, Jan. 4, 2009. (link to article)
"Art as a form of writing seems to lie behind much of the abstract art that is assembled for the exhibition, some of it quite good. Jim Hett's eye-popping, odd mixed-media drawing, "They're All the Same Except They're All Different" (1998-2008), presents a dense accretion of colored lines slowly built up in a cumulative process over long periods of time. It is casual yet obsessive; art as daily ritual. The same calligraphic quality underlies Beth Gilfilen's abstract painting, "The Big Hunch" (2008), which is based on exploratory, expressionistic drawing. She paints with no fixed or prescribed ideas in mind, simply allowing the imagery to develop and unravel intuitively. The results are lyrical, colorful and fun, but also startlingly strange. They even suggest an alchemical process."
Rocío Aranda-Alvarado. Exhibition essay for solo exhibition. The Jersey City Museum@The Majestic, Jersey City, NJ, 2007.
"In the tradition of intuitive abstractionists like Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly, Beth Gilfilen’s paintings present lines, forms and colors that are immediate, each gaining the attention of the spectator. The artist also shares with these historic figures a taste for works that share significant conversations, that are statements about space and surface and about the relationships between these.
The artist begins her canvases by drawing lines, often parallel, in liquid paint. From here, her internal rhythms take over, marking the development of everyday life as it meanders across time, through vivid journeys that are simultaneously familiar and repetitive, foreign and unexpected. These seeming contradictions are important for the artist, who strives to address opposing forces and paradoxes in her works.
The significance of colors and their place next to each other is apparent. Together with these works, the artist also makes collaged works from paint samples. Cutting them into shapes reminiscent of Mayan stone carvings, the artist covers entire walls with her colorful forms that lay over one another. Colors in the same family are close together, marking their space both physically and conceptually. The relationship between both bodies of work is apparent, as color, line and form all play considerable roles."
Todd Gibson. “A Different Sort of Summer Group Show,” From the Floor, July 12, 2005.
"Across the gallery, Beth Gilfilen’s quiet and still three-dimensional installation of cut and drawn-upon commercial paint chips sits firmly within the body of work emerging in recent years that will be seen by future art historians as having meaningfully expanded the possibilities for the medium of drawing."
Joyce Korotkin. “Hot & Sticky,” The New York Art World, pg. 18-19. July 2001.
"Elizabeth Gilfilen's exuberant, surprisingly appealing jumble of expressionist brushwork and tangled, dripped swaths of brilliant color (sky blues against burgundies) elegantly recapitulates the abstract language of luminaries such as Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, without borrowing too much."
Richard Roth. Catalog essay for MFA Thesis Exhibition, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 2001.
"Elizabeth Gilfilen conflates abstract expressionist painting, the nervous system, and digital/medical imaging in completely fresh and unexpected ways. The beauty of her painting is most uncanny – it is the beauty of virtuoso painting in the age of the internet and the MRI. And Elizabeth reminds us that painting has always been a kind of cosmic lie detector."