The work is a meditation on color and form. The drawings and paintings emerge from a gradual yet progressive layering that leads to a complex network of shifting shapes and colors. The shapes and lines create my own vocabulary of abstract forms. They are resonances with inner emotional states that originate with ideas about color, architecture and geometric structure. I often begin with a background layer of washes, followed by elements of line and form. The color may become muted and minimal or vibrant and intense. There are parallels in musical composition, as looking at the work is a dynamic interaction and the eye moves around the piece element to element, as musical note to musical note. The result is a play of tones, chords, dissonances and harmonies. Elizabeth Gourlay
Elizabeth Gourlay explores the dynamic interplay between color and form in abstract paintings that have extraordinary power. The bold geometry, such as the mesmerizing repetition of a horizontal grid, may draw you in, but the small details, the suggestions of inadvertent imperfections, demand your attention. Gourlay brings an exacting rigor to the process of revealing subtle undercurrents of visual dissonance, and these surprising notes—an accent of deep red against a backdrop of moody gray, or a jagged edge of cerulean blue—elevate her work beyond simple beauty into something far more complex.
There is a distinctive contrast between what at first glance appears to be Gourlay’s straightforward, if gorgeous, paintings and the emotional charge that her deliberate constructions of line and color create. And that’s exactly the point. Past masters of minimalism, from Anni Albers to Piet Mondrian to Agnes Martin—all of whom Gourlay cites as important influences—focused on reducing artistic elements to their essential form. Gourlay’s work demonstrates, as theirs did, that an elusive narrative isn’t any less evocative. In fact, the freedom to interpret the meaning behind any work of art allows for the most intimate of connections.
Caroline Cunningham, Elizabeth Gourlay: Transcendent Moments, NE Home Magazine, 2016
For Gourlay the painterly sound is rhythmic. She mutes her colors of melody to emphasize the syncopation of her forms. In her large square canvases, often named after instruments, she uses collage to layer horizontal strips of paper that have been tinted along their edges, then adds additional squares of paint like regular punctuations. In other examples she stacks her square blocks of color. In others she plucks an edge into a triangle. The overall results are quiet and harmonic, like an ensemble of world music in otherworldly form, here arranged in sublime surroundings.
James Panero, The New Criterion, November, 2015
Perhaps, today, the question of existence that puzzles us most is not "What is reality?" The more difficult and pressing questions are "What is nature?" and "Where is the actual union of self and nature observed?" Modern artistic culture often expresses our perceptual experience of multiple relationships between things and events. Could there be a more basic uniqueness of place, from which perceptual thinking subsequently extracts understandings about events and relative locations?
With her new paintings, Elizabeth Gourlay takes us further on this path that explores the intimacy of direct contact with nature. One may recall her earlier grid-like studies of squares and colors, where lively innovation flourishes amid the imposition of geometric repetition. Her new paintings bring each of us to consider more deeply the uniqueness of contact with the immediacy of space.
These paintings come to us by way of vivid dreaming, stimulated by a stroll with the stones and stucco of Spoleto. The liveliness of the stroll is suggested in the crannies and crevices of "betweeness" within the paintings. It is the areas between the structural forms of black and gray that affirm uniqueness of place. Moreover, the compositions display the place of observable color as a site for the reversibility and relativity of perceptual experience. For example, the trapezoid of broken line 9 creates a texture of color that becomes, in succession, plane, object and tangible void. Elizabeth Gourlay gives affirmation and joyful expression to the uniqueness of our present lives in nature. Her work is an exciting barometer of our cultural growth.
For over 20 years, Elizabeth Gourlay has developed a practice that, at its heart, is concerned with exploring and developing the possibilities of color and form. Employing a wide range of color palettes from nearly monochromatic to highly polychromatic, her work consistently and rigorously examines ways to broaden the scale of color interaction and expression. Using pure abstraction to articulate her vision, Gourlay’s art is a process of progressively and meditatively layering elements of line and form according to the natural unfolding of an inner vision (dreaming).
Elizabeth Gourlay’s visual language is one that demonstrates mastery of the simplest forms of mark making. Employing characteristic grids, lines and geometric shapes, Gourlay’s work is frequently noted for its musicality and architectonic undertones. Repetitions of shape, color and line create harmonies and dissonances that energize surfaces and carry the eye with their rhythms. At times spirited and snappy, and other times quiet and contemplative, Gourlay’s work consistently invites elevated sensitivities to the visual world.