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Abstract 4 2018

Gathie Falk, Abstract 4, 2018

Gathie Falk, Abstract 4, 2018
Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 76.2 cm
Collection of the artist

On initial viewing, Gathie Falk’s composition Abstract 4 seems planar and geometric; on closer observation, the shapes are completely irregular and obviously drawn by hand. Within a square frame, Falk has divided the surface into twelve undulating horizontal bands that each contain a patchwork of colourful triangles, trapezoids, and oblongs.


Unknown artist, Crazy Quilt, c.1890, cotton and wool: machine pieced, quilted, and embroidered, 193 x 376 cm, Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.

Falk’s abstract composition seems familiar at first and reads almost as a free-hand rendering of unidentified hard-edge source paintings. Executed in oil paint, the colours mixed with white to lighten them, the palette is an exercise in tonal variation and also seems to celebrate Falk’s legacy as a colourist. The red of apples and boots, the greens and blues and blacks of gardens and night skies, and even the whites of the pedestals that provided a foundation for her sculptures are evident in her colour choices for Abstract 4.


In 2019, Falk had an exhibition of new work at Equinox Gallery, Vancouver. The show included bronze sculptures of running shoes and an orange pile, and a series of abstract paintings. These canvases seem like an entirely new direction in Falk’s work, but in fact they do hearken back to the abstracted imagery of the series Night Skies, 1979–80, and Pieces of Water, 1981–82. They also reflect the artist’s history of working in repetition, as the overall patterning is achieved by abutting similar geometric shapes. Painted in Falk’s ninety-first year, the series demonstrates that she remains committed to creative exploration and pushing forward the formal and stylistic parameters of her artistic production.


While Falk has not alluded to such a connection, there is a clear visual relationship that exists between these paintings and quilt work, with the obvious handmade-ness and inclination toward a patchwork rather than the hard edges of much geometric abstraction.


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