Order of the urban detritus

“Elizabeth Gower creates stunning abstract compositions from humble materials, with an emphasis upon translucency, fragility and impermanence. Her practice draws much of its content and form from the world of the everyday – commercial images and objects as well as familiar and domestic materials such as newspaper and tissue paper. Exploiting the associations evoked by such banal material, her work has often been connected with a feminist sensibility; however this framing should be countered with recognition of the strong aesthetic concerns at play.” (from: Sutton Gallery)

I think her idealism relates a lot to the critical framework that I just discover: Realism / Nouveau Realisme, identified a tendency or a desire for artists to “Attempt to bring art closer to life through material means.”. Similarly to Hannah Hoch, Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg and Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford, using collage, assemblage, photographic imagery like photomontage and silk-screen juxtapositions to reproduce found images, expressing social commentaries. In Gower’s works I see rigid and orderly pattern that are not representational, yet putting emphasis to the commercial information, such as the price tags; the advertising typography, glossy surface in rotation of the information carefully selected to create repetition, revealing the concerns of consumerism and capitalism.

Elizabeth Gower
Savings 11
, 2010
Paper cuttings on board
45 x 45 cm
Urban Artefacts #3 (detail)
Elizabeth Gower,
Urban Artefacts #3(detail), 2004
Paper collage on drafting film
200 x 100 cm

Elizabeth Gower
Installation, 1976
Acrylic and resin on newsprint, wax paper, tissue paper and nylon
300 x 400 x 300cm
Monash University Museum of Art

I particularly draw to this installation work, as it shows the fragility of the materiality, yet creatively free as a vessel for other possibilities. The see-through translucency of the thin paper; the patterns and multi-colours created beneath the surfaces; the scale and the vertical hanging format, contributing to the experience of walking; looking up; surrounding these curtain-like draping.

This idea of presentation triggers a lot into my direction of pushing the digital collages works — the ‘Printmagram’, I began this experimentation to look into motion and abstraction in 2020, when I program digital images into the print machine, and paint on the surface with gestural motion, calling the result “printmagrams”.

emm x zhang
Printmagram | Pigmented ink on sketchbook, 2020

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