In Tina Gillen’s paintings, the subject depicted is often reduced to its simplest elements. Her works present figurative worlds counterbalanced by abstract forms and the back-and-forth movement between these two dimensions wisely balances her great mastery of the pictorial vocabulary and a certain “letting go” in the execution; an obvious rigour in the composition and a more intuitive approach.
The starting point for Tina Gillen's paintings is usually located in photographs stemming from various contexts - magazines, the Internet, postcards... - which the artist subjects to a process of reduction and abstraction: “I remove things in order to, paradoxically, reach a certain readability. I emphasize the abstraction by keeping just the strict minimum.”
The exhibition devised by Tina Gillen for Mudam is organised around a large pictorial installation, created specifically for the occasion. Taking the form of a painting of 22 meters in length placed along a curved structure in the exhibition venue, this installation is directly inspired by the pre-cinematographic panoramas and dioramas, in vogue at the end of the 19th century, which presented large trompe-l’œil panoramic canvases. The point of departure for the installation at Mudam is a painted décor that Tina Gillen saw in a zoo. By keeping just a few motifs of this décor and by playing on their mirrored repetition, the artist emphasizes its artificial nature. Through its size and shape, and its exploitation of the pictorial space as an expanse, the installation may call to mind Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilies, exhibited in two elliptical rooms in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
The exhibition gathers paintings on canvas and paper which Tina Gillen has produced since 1998. Borrowed from one of these works - a canvas depicting a metal game structure, a climbing frame, taken from a photograph of the shooting of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds -, the title of the show, Playground, plays on the different meanings that this term takes in Tina Gillen’s praxis. First of all, it may refer to the subjects broached in some of the works on display here: a skate park, a playground, a mountain landscape, a stereotyped sunset... We can also read it as an allusion to the absence of human figures in the scenes represented: the latter can conjure up, not without a note of melancholy, deserted décors, to be occupied by the spectators’ mental projections. Finally, and most importantly, the playground in Tina Gillen’s praxis is the space of the painting itself: an interplay between different planes, between subject and background, between the representational space and the picture’s surface.
Tina Gillen was born in 1972 in Luxembourg. She lives and works in Brussels.