GL Brierley at Madder139


The captivating and skillful paintings of GL Brierley are appropriately exhibited at Madder139, located at the fore of Vyner Street. This street in east London is one of many avenues with a concentration of galleries that, every first Thursday of the month, hosts a free late night open-gallery event. GL Brierley served as a beacon to my inaugural First Thursdays in London, her paintings immediately captured my fascination. They are abstract yet anatomical, precious while also grotesque. Deft displays of painterly ability, Brierley’s canvases hover in an ambiguous space, all while triggering reactions both sensual and intellectual.

GL Brierley, Peecheap, oil on wood, 2009. Courtesy of Madder139.

Matersatz, the first solo show for Brierley at Madder139 (and a Saatchi Art News Critics Choice), harkens back to Dutch still-life painting with its luminous subjects placed against dark surroundings. Whereas those types of canvases figured food and identifiable inanimate objects, Brierley almost obsessively paints figures that cannot be named. Pustulent, delicate, latticed, textured, layered, overlapping, the British painter’s figures bridge the beautiful and the gross.

GL Brierley, Covetelle, oil on wood, 2010. Courtesy of Madder139.

The artist explores obsession and fetishism; both in the close attention paid to the act of creation, as well as in the vague compound figures constructed. The surfaces of Brierley’s canvases are intensely textured; paint embodies its materiality to its full potential. It is delicately brushed, spattered, poured, caked on, and allowed to bubble, wrinkle and react. There are moments in the artist’s works that astonish: textures so delicate, such as the lacework in Lovestick 2, that seem impossible. If only for her mastery of oil on wood, Brierley’s work would be a source of endless examination and awe.

GL Brierley, Lovestick 2, oil on wood, 2009. Courtesy of the artist.
GL Brierley, Lovestick 2 (detail), oil on wood, 2009. Courtesy of the artist.

Yet, the British painter transports the viewer to another level beyond the material, to a fantastical cabinet of curiosities, filled with utterly strange and bewitching shapes. Details can be anatomical or sexual (such as Peecheep and Baobola), yet the entire object always remains out of reach. They seem to be complicated amalgams that ultimately rest in their monstrosity. Referencing the extreme plays of light and dark of Caravaggio, Brierley brings a jewel-like opulence to her figures in juxtaposition of extreme dark and focus. Between admiration and recoil, the viewer constantly negotiates the multiple readings of the work in Matersatz.

GL Brierley, Despuz, oil on wood, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Perverse yet enthralling, grotesque yet painterly, Brierley’s painted world offers an endless tension between different opposites, ultimately demanding engagement. Matersatz displays a virtuosic command of painterly materials that can only be experienced in person.

A moment of engagement (and an irresistible moment of texture) at Matersatz. Photo by Stefan Zebrowski-Rubin.

Matersatz at Madder139 runs until 28 November. GL Brierley is also currently part of the Liverpool Biennial, on exhibit at Walker Gallery until 3 January, 2011.


gl brierley, madder139



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