Gommaar Gilliams is one of Belgium’s most exciting contemporary painters. He was born in 1982 in Lier, Belgium. Graduating in visual arts from LUCA School of Arts in Brussels and having a Masters degree in Painting from PXL College in Hasselt, his large-scale paintings and textural wall hangings fuse American Abstract Expressionism with figurative elements derived from Middle Eastern to European symbolism.
Although influenced by traditional figurative art and primitive fragments, Gilliams’ abstract and gestural style results in work that reintroduces the subject without detracting from the painting itself.
“I see my work as being something very personal but yet universal at the same time.”
Gilliams’ work examines the complexities of our emotions and desires, as well as the stories and imagery that connect humans. The artist’s past work, as seen in his 2018 exhibition at De Buck Gallery, Jenny Kissed Me, was a tribute to the inner child. His recent work, exhibited in both Always Been Told (2020) and If You Were Dreaming (2021) continues his exploration of longing and nostalgia.
Oscillating between abstraction and representation, Gilliams weaves colors and textures with both allegorical symbols and human figures. Compositions framed in celestial elements and wreathes of textural flora beckon the viewer into lush spaces filled with fairytale castles and animals in motion. Gilliams’ motifs are dreamy, but intentional–the artist references both the history of painting and the history of art through this body of work. He examines the way that humans search for and utilize repeated symbolic imagery throughout time periods and cultures, tapping into our shared desires and our shared wonder for the natural world.
The protagonists of his narratives, women gazing at the moon and figures running through landscapes, are archetypes referencing universal stories. Ultimately, Gilliams hopes his work will evoke an emotional bridge between past, present, and future, inspiring his viewers to unite in a space of “half-remembered” memories.
“My work builds upon itself. It’s a matter of intertextuality. But like everything, things have to be fed in order to stay alive. I always want to push it forward. There is so much to explore. You know, for me painting, is a 24/7 thing. It’s a way of living. So things like painting problems, finding new subjects, new materials, other sources etc., are not individual problems you have to deal with. It’s all connected to each other in one big flow. So, it all comes naturally, and difficulties and uncertainties are a part of this.”
Gilliams’ unique painting process reflects his interest in the ways in which a layered surface can mirror the conceptual layering of stories and memory. The works begin with an acrylic dye process in which Gilliams allows the paint to soak and stain the fibers of his fabric, a process he feels allows the color to be “inside” the fabric.
He then combines these dyed fabrics in an assemblage and energetically adds oil paint and oil sticks to imbue the work with a new layer of color that sits atop the original acrylic. Gilliams’ fresco-like process looks not just at the creation of a history within a singular piece, but also at the interplay of how paint can both soak into and sit upon a surface. Gilliams plays as well with overlapping stylistic choices, rendering his fantastical narratives in an array of painting styles meant to further underscore the timeless quality of his work.
“One of the great motivations of my work is painting and the history of painting”
Read Gommaar Gilliams’ recent interview with Asian Curator HERE.
MORE ABOUT THE ARTIST
Gilliams has exhibited widely across Europe as well as in solo exhibitions at De Buck Gallery in New York and the La Brea Residency in Los Angeles. His work has also won numerous national awards in Belgium including the Ernest Albert Grand Prize (Grote Prijs Ernest Albert) in Mechelen and the Prize of the City of Harelbeke (Prijs van de stad Harelbeke). His work is included in many private and public collections. He lives and works in Hasselt, Belgium.
Gilliams’ current and past exhibitions with De Buck Gallery:
If You Were Dreaming (2021)
Always Been Told (2020)
Jenny Kissed Me (2018)