deborah gourlay liquid light

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Deborah Gourlay Liquid Light Artist-in-Residence Watts Gallery, 2011

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Deborah Gourlay is fascinated by patterns and form and colour and light in the buildings around her. During her residency at Watts Gallery she has primarily sought inspiration from Watts Chapel and her recent work records the intimacy and atmosphere of the building and its surroundings. As well as providing a sanctuary, the Chapel is a work of art and Deborah presents its exuberant decoration afresh by layering translucent and opaque colours experimentally in drawings, collaged etchings, photography and 3-D work. The walls of the historic buildings that she records seem saturated with the past and yet the shafts of light and fleeting shadows evoke the elusiveness of time. Deborah’s images invite us to experience tangible spaces sensationally, not literally, as if we were dreaming, or as if they were part of a distant memory.


  • Deborah Gourlay

    Liquid Light

    Artist-in-Residence Watts Gallery, 2011

  • Published by Watts Gallery on the occasion of the exhibition:

    29 November 2011 - 8 January 2012Watts Gallery, Compton,

    Essay by Catherine Hilary and Deborah GourlayPhotography by Anne PurkissDesign by Andrew Churchill

    AcknowledgementsAdam Zombory-Moldovan, Paul Nelson, Paul Coyle and Elaine Thomas from the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham, Winsor & Newton, Man Group Plc Charitable Trust, KPMG Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

    Front cover Angels of Light and Dark, monoprint and acrylic, 33 x 23cm, 2011 Back cover Liquid Light I, Silver Gelatine emulsion on Zircoll paper, 42 x 28cm, 2011

    Liquid Light Deborah Gourlay, Artist-in-Residence, Watts Gallery, 2011

  • Liquid Light Deborah Gourlay, Artist-in-Residence, Watts Gallery, 2011

    Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets, Burnt Norton

    Deborah Gourlays residency at Watts Gallery coincided with the highly- acclaimed Hope project when the building was emptied and significantly restored. Historic buildings have always held a strange power for Deborah and in her art she relishes the challenge of capturing the atmosphere and sense of nostalgia in old buildings. The atmosphere and decay of the gallery building prior to restoration appealed to Deborah in an aesthetic and emotional way and witnessing Watts Gallery evolve from dereliction to renovation as itslowly revealed itself from under the tarpaulin was an unforgettable experience for her. Deborahs work also incorporates Watts Chapel which she considers to be a hidden gem. Over the past year she has sought inspiration from the contrast of its ornate terracotta exterior and its richly colourful and intricate interior. Deborahs works developed from sketches she made of the changing effects of light streaming into the interior and photographs taken from all angles using different light sources, including a torch at night- time.

    Liquid Light showcases a selection of work that Deborah has accomplished during her residency. Printmaking and drawing are central to her practice and her work on the chapel and graveyard include large scale charcoal drawings which exaggerate the shape of the chapel inviting the viewer to look at the building afresh. Deborah has produced a number of mixed media etchings, which combine watercolour, ink, collage and mono-prints, sometimes overlaid with hand-dyed tissue papers and Japanese papers. Each has a final etching on it which creates a unity to the overall design. The prints have a spontaneous, sketchy quality due to Deborahs instinctive method of working. She keeps an open mind and makes use of happy accidents whilst balancing chaos and order. The result is that the prints have an intimacy, much like work found in a private sketchbook.

    Deborahs photographic work allowed her to further develop a sense of light, space and atmosphere. Her photography is created through successive transformations using a combination of printmaking, drawing, constructed models, and photography. Some of the images are derived from a three dimensional collage and the transformation can go from the photograph, to the collage, to a three dimensional model and back to the photograph.

    LeftSacred SpaceMixed Media, 30 x 37cm, 2011AboveDeborah Gourlay at work, 2011

  • The title of this exhibition introduces us to a particular technique called liquid light or silver gelatin, a light sensitive photographic emulsion which Deborah paints onto a variety of materials. It is applied in the dark-room and then left to dry. Deborah exposes her images onto prepared paper using a negative which she has produced. Normal photographic processes then apply using the relevant chemicals.

    The practice of liquid light appeals to Deborah as it is very hands- on and introduces a painterly element into the photography by showing the brush marks. The application can range from light brush strokes to a more even application. Consequently every image is a one-off photograph which she then works on using techniques such as scratching into the negative, cutting the images up and using them as collage, bleaching and then working back into them, and adding paint and charcoal.

    Deborah has found using liquid light exciting and liberating since it provides many possibilities but is also unpredictable. It is an ideal technique to use to explore memories and how they shift, change, amplify and dissolve over time. The process of creating photography through building up layers led Deborah to experiment with making light-boxes, which she views as containers

    isolating the fugitive image of memories in relation to space. The nebulous quality of glass fascinates her as does the way light and glass interact, allowing the image to fluctuate between presence and absence. The light- boxes suggest a more ephemeral and transitory sense of how we experience spaces through memory.

    The historic buildings that Deborah records seem saturated with the past yet the shafts of light and fleeting shadows evoke the elusiveness of time. Deborahs images provide a tension between obscuring and revealing and between translucent and opaque colours. Liquid Light questions our perception of the past and present and allows us to experience tangible spaces sensationally, not literally, as if we were dreaming, or as if they were part of a distant memory.

    Top Tree of Life

    Mixed media and mono print, 19 x 18.5cm, 2011


    Mixed media and mono print,19 x 18.5cm, 2011

    RightGallery Interior II

    Mono print and acrylic, 33 x 23cm, 2011

  • TopSpirit of LightMixed media and etching 1/1, 23 x 13cm, 2010BottomArchwayMixed media and etching 1/1, 23 x 13cm, 2010

    TopBelfry DetailMixed media and etching 1/1, 23 x 13cm, 2011BottomGarment of Praise FriezeMixed media and etching 1/1, 23 x 13cm, 2010

    RightLiquid Light VIII

    Silver Gelatin emulsion on Zircoll paper, 35 x 24cm, 2011

  • LeftVault of Heaven I

    Charcoal on paper, 312.5x 152.5 cm, 2011

  • LeftVault of Heaven IICharcoal on paper, 152.5 x 122cm, 2011RightLiquid Light IXSilver Gelatin emulsion, mixed media on zircoll paper, 29 x 22cm, 2011

  • Left to rightFragmentsCollograph 1/25, 9 x 9cm, 2010Tattered WallMixed media, 7.5 x 7.5cm, 2010Papered RemainsCollograph 1/25, 10 x 10cm, 2010

    RightLiquid Light IISilver Gelatin emulsion on Somerset handmade paper, 40cm x 26cm, 2011

  • AboveFugitive Traces ILightbox, 2011RightDetails from Fugitive Traces I

  • Watts Gallerys Artist-in-Residence Scheme

    Watts Gallery Artist-in-Residence scheme Watts Gallery has run the Artist-in-Residence scheme since 2005. It was instigated with the annual Watts Prize by the generous support of Winsor & Newton and in particular their Chairman, Michael Henderson. For three years the scheme was supported by The Fenton Arts Trust. Each year Watts Gallery has appointed a graduate from the University for the Creative Arts and has provided support, encouragement and opportunities for the continuation of their development. Each artist has participated in workshops as part of the Art for All Learning and Outreach programme at Watts Gallery. They have had the opportunity for introductions, mentoring and to put together a final exhibition showcasing their work. We are delighted that previous Artists-in-Residence have continued their association with Watts Gallery. Deborah Gourlay was the first Artist-in-Residence to use the new studio at Watts Gallery which was generously funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Guildford Borough Council and the Spencer Wills Trust. Watts Gallery is most grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Fenton Arts Trust and Winsor & Newton for making this scheme possible and to the University for the Creative Arts for their artistic partnership.

    Deborah Gourlay

    Deborah has a Certificate of Printmaking from Northbrook College and a Fine Art Degree from the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham. She has won many awards such as the Pullingers Award for Best Print, Watercolour Award and the Drawing Prize from the Fine Arts Society, Lincoln Joyce Award from the RI at the Mall Galleries London, 2nd Prize St. Winifreds at Pallant House. She has exhibited in various regional and London galleries including The Lightbox in Woking, Moncrieff-Bray Gallery in Petworth, Open Art Exhibition in Chichester, Mall Galleries, Royal Watercolour Society, and Chase at the Royal College, in London.