We had the good fortune of connecting with Yvette Gellis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yvette, how do you think about risk?
It’s clear looking back to the beginning of my life that the best choices I made were the risky ones. There was always someone telling me not to do something I dreamed of doing… I never listened. I always followed my intuition. I listened to that inner voice which always came with big risks. Even today, my work is about breaking boundaries – finding new ways of experiencing painting. If I don’t have that feeling that I might be failing then I haven’t pushed the work far enough. The work most risky is always the most well received. I am willing to fail, and fail over and over again.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My paintings derive their inspiration from the world in which I live and work. Wandering through my immediate environment with its endlessly shifting landscape, often incongruous, and always progressively changing, I record my perceptions like metaphorical footnotes: a cacophony of sounds, textures, and marks imprinted everywhere transform into a kind of mind map of daily life.
Recently, one morning, as I was entering my studio from the street, I put my key in the door and looked down to find a beautiful orange colored leaf placed so perfectly – vibrating with a powerful energy as if it was saying: “I am here with you.” One leaf became the many leaves. These leaves were so much more than tangible objects but reminders of something more profound – the universal connection between all living things on the planet, the human soul and love. Each leaf became an altar.
Operating at the crossroads of the visceral and the intellectual, I layer charcoal, paint and collaged imaginary to construct arcadian scenes of the natural environment. The landscape recedes into a nearly mystical space dissolving in both light and shadow, while pronounced swaths of impasto paint are physical reminders of a presence. Combining the flatness of abstraction with perspectival figuration is a deliberate effort to confound a sense of space. I create this meditative interpretation of the natural world while traversing the ever-shifting boundaries between representation and abstraction, or, rather, between notions of control and elements of chance. The cyclical motif of the leaf provides an imagistic structure, surpassing traditional tropes to represent not the ephemeral, but the omnipresent. A departure from traditional notions of the landscape, there is no implied narrative here, no defined relationship between humanity and the environment presented to the viewer. Instead, I offer a space to inhabit and meditate upon the notions of chance, choice and the omnipresence of nature.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Lake Shrine in the Pacific Palisades, surpasses all loveliness! The beautiful lake, gardens and Windmill chapel is a paradise on earth where one can find peace and the serenity to meditate – away from the negativity in the world today.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mother was an artist, writer and art educator. Her support was paramount to defining my life from a young age. I will forever be grateful to her.
The 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica where I have maintained my studio practice has been the ideal environment for me to create new critical works. Their outstanding contribution to the arts provides artists both locally and internationally the space and time to take risks.
Yvette Gellis (MFA, 2008, Claremont Graduate University) has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Landesgalerie Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art in Linz, Austria, St. Jacques Eglise in Dival, France, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, S&L Gallery, The Torrance Art Museum, Soulangh Cultural Park and Museum in Taiwan, Cao Shan Dong Men Art Museum in Yangmingshan, Taipei. Among her many reviews, most notable are; The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post Arts, Square Cylinder, Art in America Magazine, LA Weekly, Art LTD, The Huffington Post, Art & Cake, Artillery Magazine and Art Scene LA.
Ms. Gellis has been awarded artist residencies with exhibitions in Taiwan, France, Austria, Arizona, and the 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica.
Instagram: Yvette Gellis
Facebook: Yvette Gellis
Art by Yvette Gellis Photography by Alyse Gellis