Gill is a multiple award winning, life-long artist. She currently works from her studio in the Eastern Scottish Borders.
She is a part time fine art lecturer and tutor and through thorough research she has developed a deep understanding of artists from the past, such as Caravaggio, Turner and Vermeer. She often ends up using their approaches in her own work while developing new methods.
Her paintings are contemporary figurative using pigment-rich oil paints on aluminium. They merge influences as diverse as historical portraiture, Jungian psychology and shamanic dream worlds to create a unique visual language deep in metaphor which can sometimes pose more questions than answers.
After graduating with an honours degree in Sculpture from Cheltenham College of Art in 1989 she has continued to practice art and has exhibited widely.
She was the founder of Allanbank Arts
, an art centre in the Scottish Borders which she ran until 2017.
Before that she was a part time lecturer at Worcester College of Art, Stroud College of Art and Borders College. She was also an artist in residence for Gloucestershire psychiatric services and delivered art groups to mental health patients for seven years.
(selected) Awards and Commissions
Awarded best exhibitor stand at Borders Art Fair 2019
Creative Scotland Visual Artists Award. 2010/11. Migraine Project.
Awards For All and Eccles and Leitholm Primary School. 2006/7
Commission to build a sculpture for the school grounds.
Art Shape and East Glos NHS Trust. 1996
Commissioned to build a temporary sculpture for Imperial Gardens Cheltenham for the duration of the Literature festival.
East Glos NHS Trust. 1995
Commissioned to produce twelve permanent artworks for a new mental health hospital.
Current and Recent Exhibitions and Galleries
Torrance Gallery, Dundas St, Edinburgh
Dancing Light Gallery, La Mancha
Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts Open Exhibition at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow
White Fox Gallery, Coldstream
Velvet Easel Gallery, Portobello
Number 4 Gallery, St Abbs
Arusha Gallery, Gill Walton, Peter Hallam and Chris Hall, August 2017
Borders Art Fair 2018 and 19 and 20
Glasgow Art Fair 2019
'A Butterfly Collection'
Axiom Centre for Contemporary Art
Member of the Scottish Artist's Union
Member of the Society of Scottish Artists
Member of Visual Arts Scotland
Leonardo da Vinci said that every artist paints himself. Her paintings are her inner self. As simple as it sounds…
She does not like to talk about her work because it would be like talking about herself. Many years ago, she was trained as a sculptor. When I visited her studio, I felt that those powerful lines behind those raw colours came from a sculptress. Time and space become part of her work. The space manifests itself as a plastic element generating shape. Tension between those plastic elements are always present in Walton’s work. Colours and texture conspire creating harmonic spaces with overlapping planes of horizontals and verticals which give the necessary dynamism to the composition. She masters her medium: oil on aluminium. She loves to work wet-on wet mixing colours on the same surface. She also uses sheets of copper. One of her portrayed models had red hair so she chose to leave bits of copper without paint. She adores the smell of oil and turpentine. “ nothing is as fleshy as layer upon layer of transparent oil paint, it is as close as you can get to real skin”, she said. She prefers natural pigments to those synthetic.
She is interested in the human body. In her work, figures are arranged on lines and flat colours areas. Space and geometry are contrasted by almost tactile flesh. Her palette goes from cold blues and greens and complementary colours to bright oranges and reds. We can feel a remote influence of Francis Bacon – who placed the human figure as the axis of his work -in her figures. They are ethereal and heavy at the same time. Distorted and languid, present and absent, looking to some far horizon beyond the picture frame. She must have been a psychologist in a former life because the analysis of her characters is very revealing. She said “a painting takes as long as it takes, it can’t be rushed, so many different layers and levels…they tell me how long they will take!”. Most of her paintings started as life drawings: Dennis, Rebekah, Scarlett, Kim…all her models, in a way, decide what they would like to wear or been identified with…gloves, red shoes, corsets, black tutus, etc. She then creates a sort of stage set for her figures in which they interact. She works in a way as a scenographer does fiddling with figures until they finally talk to her and she knows exactly the meaning and therefore exactly what she needs to do.
She admires Lucian Freud and Lita Cabellut, (a Spanish painter living in the Netherlands) work.
She finds Lita’s monumental portraits particularly inspiring. But as every artist she is a blender. She combines her own experience and perceptions with other sources of inspiration.
Architecture is not a secret for her. She dominates perspective but decided to play with it instead of representing space as we perceive it. Her spaces are filled with zoomorphic figures which generate their own space. Human figures are shown almost in desolation, isolation, they feel vulnerable and strong at the same time. She likes to paint portraits. I believe she is a great “connoisseur” of the human souls. She can read between lines and she can see beyond your eyes. She said: “You look at a face and you can read things into that face, or that posture or that attitude…and I know how is to feel in that way somehow”.
She paints to discover her inner world and at the same time, unknowingly she trespasses your soul. Could we enrol her as a neo-figurative realistic painter? She has the passion of an Expressionist and the colours of a Fauve as well. She studies constantly great artist’s techniques, including old masters such as Caravaggio. She has a very soft voice that is a real contrast when you look at her powerful art. We have to wait and see, but one thing I can tell: Her paintings are a dialog with the spectator and she is leaving a mark on our local art history.
Professor Maria Chester
Portraits. Intention and choices in media, technique and mark-making.
A Q and A session with Jan Brown to support her thesis of the same name, January 2018
Can you tell me something about the drive behind your creative work?
G It keeps me sane, it is something I have always done and it gives life meaning and purpose. I simply cannot imagine not doing it, it is like a meditation and connects me to something bigger than myself.
What motivates you to make portraits or art that makes reference to people?
G We are people, by painting people we are exploring what it means to be human and getting a greater understanding of ourselves. We recognise emotion and posture in others so it is a direct way of communicating, human to human.
I am interested in your choices in your technique, media, composition, colour , and mark making. What do you prefer and why?
G I draw, I do life drawing at least once a week and that is the scaffold to everything. That helps me to understand how human bodies and faces work. It is a wonderful thing. There is an atmosphere in a life drawing room like nothing else
In the studio I sometimes cut up the life drawings and place them with other drawings to get compositions for paintings, when you put two figures together you instantly get a dialogue, a narrative.. I also do painted portraits from life.
I paint in oils on aluminium, I love the way the paint glides on the completely flat surface of the metal. I work with very thin layers, for me the thin veils of oil paint on a smooth surface is the closest you can get to the feel of skin. The layers build up and up so the paint can be quite thick in places. I start with big brushes and thin paint (thinned with turpentine) and the final stages are thick paint (nothing added) and smaller brushes. I sometimes scrape all the paint away leaving traces and then build up again.
The colours I use are traditionally made using natural pigments (Wallace Seymour and Michael Harding) for the intensity of the colour. I make use of colour opposites to add dynamism to the painting and make the colours sing. Prussian blue and Cadmium orange or Alizarin crimson and Veridian green are favourite combinations, I put a lot of greens and blues into the shadows, it all adds drama. I love playing with colour.
Has this changed over time?
G My degree was in sculpture and I mostly worked in clay. Figures featured heavily in my sculpture too and I still make sculpted heads in stoneware ceramic. I only started painting seriously at the age of 40 and it took a while to find my painting style.
Is it your intention to capture the purely physical or something deeper about the person ?
G Deeper emotion definitely but there are also a lot of symbolic references in there too. Colour also lends it's own meaning.
What I love is that there are as many interpretations of a painting as there are people. We have all had different experiences and I have been very moved by the different and profound meanings people find in my paintings that are nothing like my original intention.
Has this changed over time?
How do you gauge your success in realising your intention
G That's a tricky one, I can work on paintings for a very long time and the meaning can change throughout the process. A painting can take weeks or months to complete or just a couple of days. You never know till a year or so down the line if it is a good one. The reaction of others to a painting is, of course, important but not the definitive measure of success. I have to be happy with it and will sometimes change a painting, maybe adding other elements or taking things out, months after I thought I had finished it
Do you have any new developments, ideas or experiments in mind?
G Painting is a continual development, every painting is in some way a reaction to the last and a painter will never be finished. I am always trying out new materials and techniques, especially in the drawing and my style is continually evolving.
Recently I have experienced Shamanic Journeying, going into a semi hypnotic state and delving into a Jungian sub conscious world. I intend to put some of the imagery from these really intense day dreams into the paintings.
If you would like to contribute to Jan's thesis and give your own answers to these questions then please contact Jan directly on firstname.lastname@example.org