[…] Mythology creates space to talk about morality and the difficulties of the human experience.” -Shanequa Gay
Written by Leigh Sabisch, gallery associate, The Southern
If there is too much going on in a piece, it can feel crowded. Like the artist is talking too fast for you to keep up with. Shanequa Gay, however, has found the perfect balance. Her work doesn’t only talk, it breathes . In my opinion, you can almost hear more in the breaths, in the spaces in between, the calm. The way that her bold color fields contrast with the curiously realized figures excites me. The incredibly ethereal depth that she achieves through such conscious use of shape and negative space and the painting surface itself is straight up other-worldly.
Can you delve into the mythological elements in your work? What inspired the human/animal hybrid? Are there any specific reasons behind the selection of the animals in your pieces?
For me mythology creates space to talk about morality and the difficulties of the human experience. By collapsing the hierarchies of the human and animal figure the hybrid becomes a tool of mediation, ambiguity, and opens the door to alternative perspectives. The animals definitely have symbolic meaning. However, that meaning doesn’t always mean the same thing in every artwork. A deer head could mean purity and innocence as well as problematic or waste.
Some of the figures are fully realized and others are color blocked in; why is this and what guided the color choice?
These aesthetic choices speak to the litany of binaries / dichotomies for those living in the margins of reality/illusion, presence/absence, fear and strength.
What excites you the most about how your work is evolving?
Oh wow, I would say the large leap I have taken in my work since last year. I definitely attribute my time in the MFA program at GSU to shifting my work into a new and ever evolving realm. I love the path I’m on right now, the color and developing new language for my work is exciting.
Why did you leave portions of the wood panel exposed in all of your pieces in “New Painting?” Do you prefer painting on wooden panels rather than canvas?
I looooooove wood. I love the way the wood grain gives the sense of sky or ground or environment in my work. This “openness” of the wood grain is really the secret sauce success of my work.