Georgie Hill: Feint

In fencing or military terminology, a feint is a manoeuvre designed to mislead an opponent by suggesting then deferring a certain course of action. Georgie Hill’s paintings adopt similarly deceptive strategies. Her watercolour and graphite works on paper confound optical experience and the understanding of pictorial space—what can be seen, experienced, or felt within or through a painting—and, equally importantly, what can be concealed.

Feint brings together a suite of new, previously unseen paintings. Methodically planned and executed, Hill’s paintings always work within strict self-imposed parameters. These include restrictions on scale, colour palette, and a fixed set of spatial devices, often based around an imagined architectural or domestic space. In these new paintings, Hill’s incredibly intricate technique expands as never before. Bold, pulsating patterning and shimmering bands of colour spread across and fracture both the surface of the picture and its contents, pushing against and breaking from the border and the frame.

Hill takes cues from various forms of protective colouration used to distract predators, such as contrasting patches of colour on the wings of a moth, from the dazzle camouflage techniques of modern warfare (reminding us that this type of camouflage was invented by a painter), and from other forms of natural and cultural concealment.

The pieces of furniture that sit within or float ambiguously across the surfaces of these paintings can be attributed to makers such as Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Le Corbusier, and, most significantly, modern Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray. Here Hill expands her interests in modes of visibility to address the virtual invisibility of Gray within art history, until more recent scholarship which has begun to acknowledge the importance of her contribution to the modern movement.

These references situate Hill’s concerns in relation to often-gendered historic debates around art’s relationship to the world outside its borders, and over the virtue of decoration and ornament within modernist and art deco practices. Hill’s treatment of surface decoration as a form of camouflage updates and unsettles these concerns, while asserting a painterly and psychological complexity that offers a thoroughly contemporary take on the tradition of watercolour painting.

City Gallery Wellington, 30 November 2013–26 January 2014; Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, 9–31 May 2015.