Susan Gunn’s ground paintings reveal a sculptural physicality that embody a tacit strength and fragility.
Gunn explores the phenomenological idea of painting through a repetitive technique of building up layers of gesso; incorporating natural earth and mineral pigments, and base substances such as chalk, coal, and marble dust. She is interested in the history of the fossilised and sedimentary rocks that have evolved naturally over centuries. The origins, and anthropology of colour and naturally occurring materials are sources of inspiration.
Accidental cracks and fissures appear in the surface of the paintings. The marks are honest splits that cut through to the base of the canvas and appear as drawings that scribble over the strict geometry and rest in a broken state of suspension.
It is easy to overlook the more subtle nuances; on close inspection the smaller scratches and marks in the surface bear witness to a laborious process, the product of the handmade, the imperfection of natural materials, and the beauty of the flawed.
In alignment with aspects of Japanese aesthetics and the concepts of kinstugi, and wabi-sabi there is an intention to convey the idea that the acceptance and appreciation of the broken and damaged provoke a sense of ‘pathos’ and a realisation of impermanence, change, and flux.
The Ground works are a contemporary monument to the history of the materials. In no way nostalgic, they express a literal connection to the earth and a primal, human ability to re-generate, re-cycle and transform: A celebration of re-invention and evolution.
The works invite an encounter with the viewer. The absence of imagery allows a pure meditation of the surface and material as a poesis, in the fundamental sense, a movement of coming into thought of the process of making.
Gunn has made a number of works in response to a specific site. By paying attention to placement and natural light source, she provokes the idea of a transient viewing and experience. As the sun moves the light changes. The intention is to observe its ability over time to change and liven the surface of the works teasing out subtle nuances and a sense of the ephemeral and sublime.
Susan was selected for Axis Open Frequency Artists of the Month in 2006 by curator Cherry Smyth
"In Gunn’s paintings there is a subtle tension between the golden section formalism of their geometry and the unruliness of the free-form cracking. They each balance control and abandon, deliberation and chance. This is not the frivolous feminine but the ferocious one, celebrating healing from trauma and taking up space, unapologetically…majestically. Her visceral, loaded work has the monochromatic discipline of Robert Ryman and the meticulous abstraction of Callum Innes" Curator Cherry Smyth
Speaking about Gunn's work at the unveiling of Terra Memoria 2015, a panoramic twenty metre installation created for the Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia:
“Susan’s work is an absolutely wonderful example of how incredibly complex simple things can be and also how incredibly simple complexity can be…” Nichola Johnson OBE
Gunn collaborated with Adapt Low Carbon and Archetype Architects to create the significant painting installation.
"The iconic artwork and concept, mirror the ambitious remit of constructing an innovative low carbon building in the 21st century and is sympathetic to the ethos of the project, using sustainable and natural materials to celebrate the coming together of ambition, architecture and art." Director Ben Humphries
In 2005 she was nominated by Head of Collections Amanda Geitner (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the director of the East Anglian art Fund) for an Arts Council ‘Escalator’ Award to support talented artists in East of England. This included professional and creative support including a series of mentoring sessions with acclaimed artist, Callum Innes.
Gunn gained international recognition when she was awarded the Sovereign European Art Prize in 2006having been nominated by Professor Colin Self and curator, Cherry Smyth. The judging panel was chaired by Sir Peter Blake RA and comprised of a distinguished selection of judges including: Jorge Molder (Director of Gulbenkien Gallery, Lisbon), Charlotta Kotik (Brooklyn Museum of Contemporary Art & Associate of The National Gallery, Prague), Giorgio Bonomi (President of Zappettini Foundation), Jan Willem Schrofer (President of the Rijksacademie), Charles Esche (Director of the Van Abbes Museum, Eindhoven), Shaheen Mirali (Curator of the Berlin House of Culture), Ami Barak (Head of Art, Ville de Paris) & Bryan Ferry. The inaugural Sovereign European Art Prize, a collaboration between the Sovereign group and Candlestar cultural agency, was launched at The Hayward Gallery in 2005 and culminated in an exhibition and prize giving at Bonhams, London.
She studied at Bolton School of Art in the mid 1980’s and Norwich University of the Arts where she gained a first class Honours degree in Fine Art Painting. She has exhibited widely and has had a number of significant solo and group exhibitions at venues including Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, the Norwich University of the Arts, East Gallery, Bonhams, Rollo Contemporary, the Crypt at St Marylebone, London, the Portico, Manchester, and The Fine Art Society, London
Gunn works from her studio space at Artwork Atelier and is currently on the StudioBook 2017 programme working with Mark Devereux Projects. She is a member of Castlefield Gallery Artists Association and a council member of Contemporary British Painting - a UK, artist led organisation formed to explore and promote critical context and dialogue in current painting practice through solo and group exhibitions; talks and publications. She has work in a number of public and private collections around the world including the China Academy of Art Museum, Hanzhou, the Madison Museum of Fine Art, USA, the Sainsbury Collection at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, and the Priseman-Seabrook Collection.
Gunn was shortlisted for the Greater Manchester Arts Prize in 2016 and was one of the prize winners of the Greater Manchester Art Prize 2017.