I find [oil paint] endlessly fascinating, and the medium is very much at the root of my work. Oil paint has historically often been equated with a form of skin, and what no doubt brought me to it in the first place was a desire to capture the human… the sense of capturing something alive is still fundamental to me, and that very aliveness is what to me defines good painting.
– Erin Lawlor
Lawlor’s painting practice rests on a foundation that is secured by the act of painting itself. This act ought not to require justification, though as a medium much continues to be demanded of it. Lawlor’s response is not to embellish or subvert painting by bending to fashionable will, especially one that views painting as marginal artifact. For Lawlor, painting itself is an act of resistance both to this voguish inclination but also to more expeditious modes of image making.
Lawlor hones her vision on the interior of gesture, placing us inside its anatomy. The proximity she offers us is akin to a kind of chromatic MRI of the body of paint. Each gesture seems to fold upon another with varying degrees of ferment. The looping trajectory of the broad brushstroke insinuates depth and whilst there is not the wry weaving and flattening of space present in a Bernard Frize for example, Lawlor’s space cascades towards each edge only to turn in time and again.
Most of the important shifts in my work have happened gradually, without overtly conscious decision at the time.
Critically, Lawlor’s paintings transcend the limitations of “process” painting, per se, and allow for a host of metaphorical implications. There is something of Jacqueline Humphries’ meteorological turbulence and leaner viscosity, and like Humphries, she remains wary of the esoteric baggage attached to abstract expressionism but open to the possibility that painting can shoulder metaphorical weight. As fluid as these works appear they avoid the trappings of lyricism whilst indicating a newer, less encumbered romanticism, something I was reminded of when talking with Erin in her London studio about her works and those of Günter Umberg. His writing seems utterly pertinent to her work…”The way I make something gives me a close relationship to the world…sometimes I think that I wouldn’t even be here without this experience.” This closer relationship to the world brings me back to the intimacy of Lawlor’s dissection of gesture. By placing us so near to this tumult, the painting arouses and heightens our sensitivity without recourse to sentiment.
– Andrew Jensen
British-born Erin Lawlor (b. 1969 in Epping) is a self-trained painter working from her Fish island studio in East London. She received a Bachelor of History of Art and Archaeology from Paris-Sorbonne University in France in 1992. Lawlor’s works are held in notable public and private collections including the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge, UK; the Mark Rothko Art Centre, Latvia and Kolon Group Art Collection, Seoul, South Korea.
I referred… to the notion of ‘visual onomatopoeia’. Just as an onomatopoeia doesn’t require or rely on the usual etymological make-up of other root words… I hope my work is communicative. Without yet requiring or conforming to a very precise analysis of form, line or colour: evocative, intuitively or even organically so, while remaining deliberately open.
– Erin Lawlor
AT HOME WITH ERIN LAWLOR, ART COLLECTOR, 2021