2. Painters Today | Process & Rituals: Susan Gunn

Episode 2. Painters Today Podcast |Process & Rituals: Susan Gunn 

‘Rituals, as markers of life, offer through their formality and relative fixity a means of measuring, mastering, and making sense of the world at large (…) Rituals vary from daily to multi-yearly, from simple gestures to complex performances, from split-second actions to processes lasting many years.’ ~ Suzanne Preston Blier [1]

Photograph of Susan Gunn by Rob Howarth. ©Albanpix.com

Episode 2 features Manchester-based artist Susan Gunn. Gunn studied at Norwich University of the Arts where she was awarded a First Class BA Honours in Fine Art Painting (2004). Solo shows include ‘New Ground’ curated by Ducie Humphrey, Fairhurst Gallery, Norwich (2016) and ‘The Beauty of Imperfections’, The Crypt, Marylebone, London (2013). Recent group exhibitions: ‘Nature’s Alchemy,’ Bo.Lee Gallery, London (2017-18), ‘Contemporary Masters from Britain’, China (2017-18) and ‘Material | Matters’, Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester (2017). She was chosen for the ‘StudioBook’ project, Manchester (2017) and won the inaugural Sovereign European Art Prize (2006; chaired by Sir Peter Blake). Her work is in various national and international collections. 

Susan Gunn, Lamp Black: Ground. Natural earth pigment & gesso on canvas & museum grade aluminium stretcher, 91.5 x 91.5 x 4 cm, 2016. 
Photograph by Daniel Walmsley; image courtesy of the artist.

Gunn uses repetitive techniques (smoothing, rubbing, polishing) to build layers of traditionally made gesso, incorporating natural earth and mineral pigments and base substances such as chalk, coal, beeswax and marble dust. Cracks and ruptures naturally defect in the gesso surface, unveiling a ‘sculptural physicality that embody a tacit strength and fragility.’[2] Gunn experienced fragility and strength during a previous chapter of her life.

Repetition developed into a ritual over time for Gunn, as she suggests: ‘the cracked and marbled surface of the gesso was and is very much like [attending to] a memorial slab.’[3] However, her rituals not only embrace the beauty of human imperfection but also the importance of craftsmanship in painting, which McGowan describes as applauding ‘the beauty of facture.’[4]

Susan Gunn, Where Are We Now? DB. 91 x 91 x 7cm, Linseed oil, encaustic wax, natural earth pigment and gesso on canvas and board. Photograph by Alan Ward; image courtesy of the artist.
Susan Gunn’s studio. Image courtesy of the artist.
Nature’s Alchemy (exhibition view), Bo.Lee Gallery, London. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Priseman Seabrook Collections were established by British artist Robert Priseman and his wife Ally Seabrook in 2014 and are housed in north east Essex. The focus of each collection is on painting and drawing made by hand. The collections are formed into three categories – ‘21st Century British Painting’, ‘20th and 21st Century British Works on Paper’ and ‘Contemporary Chinese Works on Paper’, and are a collection partner of Art UK. 

Painters Today Podcast includes royalty free music from HookSounds

Susan Gunn’s website


[1]Suzanne Preston Blier, ‘Rituals’, in Critical Terms for Art History, eds. Robert S. Nelson and Richard Shiff (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), p.298.

[2] Susan Gunn, Artist Statement (2018), http://susangunn.co.uk [accessed 10 April 2018].

[3]Robert Priseman, The Beauty of Imperfection (2013), http://susangunn.co.uk/recent-news/2016/1/23/the-beauty-of-imperfection [accessed 10 April 2018].

[4]Alan McGowan, A Painter’s Painter (2007), http://www.alanmcgowan.com/section179120_55584.html [accessed: 10 April 2018].

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