Perceptions and experiences of place inform Bridie Gillman’s paintings, abstracted to convey the felt rather than the seen. A childhood spent in Indonesia, and many subsequent cross-cultural residencies, has seen her capture the layers of travel in her practice. Watching Walls is a new and sumptuous body of work (paintings, ceramic sculpture, and a soundscape made in collaboration with her partner, musician Reuben Schafer) emerging from a residency in Portugal’s Arraiolos. The small inland town is best known for its historic buildings (often blue and white) and its rug-making traditions.
Gillman was living in an 18th century building, absorbing the layering of paint and frescoes on the walls, the light which changed with time of day, and the sounds and movements of people around the town. The backdrop of church bells, which chime every half hour, imbue the large canvases she produced here with a sense of punctuated time.
The installation titled Her mother’s room holds the soundscape. A single family owned this building over generations until fifteen years ago, with Maria Angelica the last of the family. Gillman, sleeping in Maria Angelica’s mother’s room, was surrounded with the original furniture. Here the light and colour shifted the pink walls from red to gold; these moments are captured with a sense of disquiet. In her awareness of the histories in this room are those who have gone before, lingering.
Gillman’s rugs (created using a technique she learnt in Arraiolos and with wool produced there, and which viewers may sit on) rest on a plinth in the centre of the installation. Ranging around them, paintings titled Her mother’s room are immersive. In Her mother’s room (through the doors) (2023) clouds of translucent paint in muted colours (pink, gold, grey, blue) are anchored by rust red sections on either side. They recreate the layers of history carried by the walls with the flatness of thinner rust-coloured areas, pinned between the past and contemporary experience. For Gillman, ‘It is important that people know each work is about a specific observation, that the paintings are rooted in reality. Though of course, everyone brings their own experience.’
Other paintings, such as Touched, rubbed, worn. (2023) are gestural and open, with luminosity that holds an afterimage in the retina. Marks capture space in shades of pink and white, drawing together and then apart, a reminder of amorphous skies as the day lightens. Its surface engages, shape-shifting nuances that speak to the longevity of this environment. Gillman’s abstract ceramic sculptures are tactile, expressions of the ineffable in their surfaces, their sinuous shape, colour variations and treatment.
This exhibition sees Gillman using her painterly evocations to take us deep inside a past that is caught and ameliorated with the now. They make tangible her emotional responses in a way that engages our own.
Louise Martin-Chew, 2023
 Gillman said, ‘Maria Angelica was an artist, had no children and few resources, so the building fell into disrepair. The pink room I occupied was her mother's room, and it looks almost exactly as it was found, same faded pink walls, furniture and broken chandelier. It is interesting to me that Maria Angelica didn't sleep in this room (the best one in my opinion!). Rather she kept it as a type of memorial.’
Reminiscent of the early 20th century action painters, Bridie Gillman’s mark-making is an intuitive response to the memories and emotions evoked from her cross-cultural experiences. Initially inspired by her childhood in Indonesia, the now Brisbane-based artist’s practice has evolved to consider more broadly concepts of place, reactions to the environments through which she has travelled, her connection to land as a non-indigenous Australian and the intangibility of memory.
Spontaneous and physical, Gillman’s compositions capture the tension between reminiscence and experience, wanderlust and belonging, combining instinctive use of colour and gesture with literal, poetic titles that hint at sentiments beyond.
Bridie Gillman is an alumna of Queensland College of Art, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art (First Class Honours) in 2013. In 2019 she was a finalist of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, winner of the Moreton Bay Art Award and finalist in the Fisher's Ghost Award at Campbelltown Art Centre. She is a past finalist of the Redland Art Award, the MAMA National Photography Prize, Murray Art Museum Albury, and PRIZENOPRIZE, Gold Coast (all 2016), as well as the 2013 GAS Graduate Art Show, Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally including the Museum of Brisbane, Metro Arts, Brisbane, The Walls, Gold Coast, Blindside, Melbourne and Run Amok, George Town, Malaysia and she has undertaken residencies at Rimbun Dahan, George Town, Malaysia, in 2015 and Ketjil Bergerak, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2014.
Lives and works in Queensland
Bachelor of Fine Art with Honours (Class 1), Queensland College of Art, Australia
'Watching Walls', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Wash over me', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Quiet of day', Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide
'Unreliable Memories', Artereal Gallery, Sydney
'Amongst', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'A Space Between Walls', Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide
'With the Sun in My Eyes', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Before the leaves turn', SCAPE at Studio 125 Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
'Wide Eyed', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'After', Innerspace Contemporary Art, Brisbane
'Overnight', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'From here', Spiro | Grace Art Rooms, Brisbane
'You and I, we've got the same blood running through us', Cut Thumb, Brisbane
'Round Island Tour', Run Amok Gallery, George Town, Malaysia
'Makeshift Monuments', A-CH Gallery, Brisbane
'Moonbird', Gallery Ten, Hobart
'Translations', The Hold Artspace, Brisbane
'Baggage Claim', Witchmeat ARI, Brisbane
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
'Mengingat 25 Tahun Reformasi', collaboration with Woven Kolektif, Cemeti Institute, Yogyakarta
'Responsive Forms', Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide
Bridie Gillman is a finalist in the 2023 Girra: Fraser Coast National Art Prize for her work 'Quiet, after the storm' (2023).
The inaugural Girra: Fraser Coast National Art Prize is a major acquisitive prize of $25,000, that seeks to explore our reciprocal and inextricable relationship with the environment through contemporary art.
Selected artworks provide unique perspectives on industrialised landscapes, the forces of extreme weather events, our relationship to domestic gardens, ecological concerns and speculative solutions, ruminations on the beauty and power of nature, and much more.
'Quiet, after the storm' 2022 Oil on linen, glazed ceramics and soundscape various dimensions
The finalists’ exhibition, is held at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery 23 September to 12 November 2023
Bridie Gillman completed a residency at Córtex Frontal, for a 6 week placement in an 18th century building located in Arraiolos, Alentejo, Southern Portugal, in April 2023.
Córtex Frontal is a multidisciplinary cultural project created in 2016 by the Cultural Association Córtexcult, in Arraiolos, Évora, Alentejo. The artists in residence program aims to provide the time and space to develop a project, fostering the sharing of experiences between artists and the community.
Bridie's new body of work directly inspired by her time spent at Córtex Frontal will be exhibited in her upcoming show, Watching Walls at Edwina Corlette Gallery 4 October - 24 October 2023.
Córtex Frontal is part of the Portuguese Contemporary Art Networks RPAC.
Bridie Gillman has been been selected as one of six finalists in the prestigious Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, administered by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The annual Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship is now in its 21st year and is open to Australian painters aged between 20 and 30 years. It was created from an endowment by Mrs Beryl Whiteley in 1999. The inspiration was the profound effect international travel and study had on her son, the artist Brett Whiteley, as a result of winning the Italian Government Travelling Art Scholarship in 1959 at the age of 20.
BRISBANE ART DESIGN FESTIVAL 2019 is where art, design and the city of Brisbane collide over a 17-day festival of dynamic exhibitions, performances, talks, art tours, workshops and open studios. BAD showcases more than 150 Brisbane artists, from emerging talents who are carving their mark locally, to trailblazers who are redefining creativity on the international stage.
Bridie Gillman collaborated with Brisbane designer Alexander Loterztain to make the work Breath as part of the festival held at Museum of Brisbane. Image: Jono Searle courtesy Museum of Brisbane.
The Moreton Bay Regional Art Award is an annual acquisitive exhibition proudly sponsored by the Moreton Bay Council. This year the Art Award offered an acquisitive prize of $8000, four category prizes of $2000 each, and two supplementary $1000 prizes for a Local Artist and a People's Choice Award.
Judged by Megan Williams, Manager of the University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery, Bridie Gillman was awarded the overall winner with her work 'Some sort of growth' 2018.
Megan Williams commented: 'The artist's sense of the materiality of paint, the play of colour, darkness and light make it a very strong and visually arresting painting. The colours reference the natural environment and you get a sense of the artists awe and love of nature, however, its abstract quality resists clear and direct communication. It is a work to become immersed in, to sit with, and to contemplate.'
Bridie Gillman's work as featured in Casula Powerhouse's 'Looking Here, Looking North'Exhibition has been reviewed in Art Asia Pacific Magazine.
SOO-MIN SHIM writes:
'At the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney, a video portrays the interior of a restaurant, its walls decorated with Australian-flag bunting, and kitsch Australiana tea towels and posters, positioning us inside an ostensibly Australian establishment. It is revealed in subsequent shots of the staff, clientele, and the beach outside, however, that this is in fact a tourist spot in Bali. Bridie Gillman’s video work Bali State of Mind (2017–18) ruminates on the unequal power dynamic between Australia and Indonesia, the latter being economically reliant on tourism and subject to the objectifying tourist gaze that comes with over one million Australians visiting annually.
Still image from BRIDIE GILLMAN’s Bali State of Mind, 2017–18, two-channel video installation: 17 min 40 sec.
Gillman is one of seven artists included in the exhibition “Looking Here Looking North” by members of Woven, a collective with “continuing personal connections to Indonesia.” While Gillman’s work is subtly political, the exhibition holistically was striking in its ability to reach beyond essentialist identity politics, reconfiguring what it means to be part of the Indonesian diaspora by speaking to universal themes of memory, place and belonging.
“Looking Here Looking North” is on view at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney, until March 17, 2019
looking here looking north is an exhibition by Woven, a collective of artists who each have continuing personal connections to Indonesia. Themes of identity, memory and cross-cultural experience are explored through performance, painting, installation, photography, video and sculpture.
Featuring work by: Kartika Suharto-Martin, Ida Lawrence, Mashara Wachjudy, Bridie Gillman, Sofiyah Ruqayah, Alfira O’Sullivan and Leyla Stevens.
looking here looking north is presented alongside an exhibition by artist Frances Larder and an exhibition of video works by Jumaadi as part of a suite of exhibitions showcasing perspectives on Indonesia.
CASULA POWERHOUSE ARTS CENTRE 12 JANUARY - 17 MARCH 2019
John Aslanidis, Belem Lett and Bridie Gillman are finalists in the 2018 Fisher's Ghost Award through Campbelltown Arts Centre.
The Fisher’s Ghost Art Award coincides with Campbelltown’s annual Festival of Fisher’s Ghost. Held over 10 days, the Festival dates back to 1956 and celebrates Australia’s most famous ghost – Frederick Fisher.
The Open section of the Art Award is acquisitive to the Campbelltown Art Centre permanent collection and is awarded prize-money of $20,000. In the past it has been awarded to some of Australia’s most respected Contemporary artists including Elisabeth Cummings, Khaled Sabsabi, Justene Williams, Marion Borgelt, Raquel Ormella and Philip Wolfhagen.
Jo Hoban from the Design Files recently caught up with Bridie Gillman in her Brisbane studio, to discover the inspiration behind her work: cross-cultural experiences – from a childhood growing up in Indonesia, to residencies abroad and trips across Australia. Her bold, striking compositions convey moody landscapes, exploring both emotional and physical terrain.