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Laura Tillotson: Space and imagination

Tillotson’s works grapple with space and the psychological possibilities that are opened up in our encounter with nature.

As she points out, “there are complications within open spaces, they feel seemingly open but are chaotic at the same time.”

This seems to be an appropriate way of defining that nefarious sense of transcendence and awe one feels within nature.

Without the blinking lights of screens and the busy noises of a city, we are immediately confronted with the raw power of nature.

That sense of chaos seems to arise out of that confrontation with the sheer scope and power of nature.

We are reminded of our limited power within the world, and all of our attempts to impose a certain order seem whimsical in this light.

Laura Tillotson, Water Reflection, Oil on calico, 96x130cm, 2020

This sense of power is communicated through Tillotson’s paintings through a variety of techniques and workings with the paint.

For instance, the audience is left with an ambiguous sense as to the depth of a painting, as she leaves the distance of the background up to the viewers imagination through a layered arrangement of forms.

In addition to this, she uses “a harsh light quality… [with] surface variations and physical texture” to create a depiction of nature that is startling and unconventional.

As a result, “the painting begins as a romantic landscape painting, but then I begin to add layers, change the composition and work fast so the painting no longer feels polished.”

What strikes me as salient, then, in Tillotson’s practice is her respect for the material that she works from.

In her slight obfuscation of the object as it appears, one feels there is a resistance to ‘capture nature’ and to subject it to the rationality and order of the mind.

Instead, there is an emphasis on the imagination, and the role it plays in bringing form to the world around it, as “the rocks, the mountains and the leaves of the trees begin to appear like figures… or fog-like blurs”.

Laura Tillotson, Mountains, Oil on calico, 50x65cm, 2020

And as I discuss Tillotson’s work further with her, she stresses that she doesn’t want her “painting to give away too much information”.

Although she is making efforts to allow her paintings to be more informative, I feel she is refining her craft and learning how to respect the objects from which she paints and the audience, in turn, viewing those paintings.

In such a manner, then, I feel there is a beautiful symmetry in Tillotson’s paintings, wherein she reflects the chaos and raw power of nature through the chaos and raw power of the capacities for imagination in viewing these amazing scenes.

In doing so, we are reminded of the play of forces between nature and humanity, and our interaction with the world around us, be it physical or psychological.

Tillotson’s paintings and the thinking that goes into them speak to me, because too often we are required to be strictly logical and rational, imposing a specific order onto our lives.

What she is able to capture, however, in her carefully portrayed landscapes infused with mystical and imaginative figures, is the limited power of those analytical modes of engaging.

Indeed, those modes are put into perspective, and we are reminded that things of beauty seldom arise from a strict logic and rationale.

We are instead encouraged to embrace the sheer power and chaos of the worlds of nature and imagination, allowing ourselves to be inspired through the breaking of rules and the lack of coherence.

Laura Tillotson, Walden, Oil on board, 105x70cm, 2019

Claude Pink

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