Belgian artist Gommaar Gilliams has emerged as a promising talent with vibrant, colourful works that are typified by their display of vibrant colour, bold and painterly brushwork, and playful use of materiality and texture: including use of collage and oil stick, usually upon a patchwork-style canvas.
Oscillating between abstraction and representation, Gilliams is able to create lush, seemingly timeless scenarios that appear at once familiar and fantastical, visions of a dreamlike, nostalgia-laden utopia: scenes that appear like half-remembered or imagined memories filled with a sense of nostalgia and longing. But there is a type of bittersweet reverie to the works, both melancholic and mystical.
For Gilliams, the works address themes of transition, duality, desire, myth and memory through iconography drawn from both European and Eastern storytelling, art and cultural history. The symbols in his works refer to a world characterized by melancholy, desire, and the duality between day and night. Gilliams casts a spell of poetic and allegorical narratives and transforms elements such as rain, flora, swans, rainbows and buildings into painterly motifs.
‘The Bather’ – a traditional, recurrent ideal depicted throughout art history -associated with artists such as Titian, Michelangelo and Rembrandt – is treated as a sort of metaphor, a conduit that allows Gilliams to tap into a deeper psychological connection to art, to history, and to memory. Without leaning into literal depiction, the bather is treated as a gesture, a metaphor, an idea. Similarly, ‘The swan’, which is a recurring motif in Gilliam’s’ work, traditionally represents beauty, balance, and elegance, but is also known to represent divination: the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means. But at times, the works are joyous, almost exotic, like deconstructed, reinterpretations of the Tahitian landscape as explored by Gauguin – through a similar palette of crimsons, pinks, and yellows.
For Gilliams, as a painter, the importance lies within the depiction of the thing itself – and he invites the viewers to fill in the gaps left by the story, whereby he begins a story and the viewer is asked to finish it. In this regard, Gilliams is responsible for the conveyance of emotion, instead of the representation of a particular scene anchored by time, place, or specifics. The titles often are textual references, which the artist considers literary associations with the overall atmosphere of the paintings.