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September 17, 2007 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

Jill McIntosh

I have seen many movies where bathtubs are prominent, from Minority Report, where Tom Cruise has creepy nanobots pull his eyelids open, to What Lies Beneath, where Michelle Pfeiffer is paralysed with a drug during a rare creepy moment involving Harrison Ford, and of course an old favourite of mine, the great B-Grade horror classic Rattlers where rattlesnakes sneak into a bathtub and kill…

But for the life of me I had never seen any paintings done in a bathtub, until I checked out Jill McIntosh’s latest works at Bowen Galleries on Ghuznee Street. After being photographed yet again by the friendly David Lewis who is Wellington’s social history photographer, I glanced over at the wall and spotted large plastic sheets hanging with paint spattered on them.

No, they weren’t the shower curtains from Psycho, but instead artistic canvases as I’d never seen them before. The creator of this unique way of using bath tubs was present, and her name is Jill McIntosh.

With a long history in the visual arts, she studied printmaking at Canterbury University School of Fine Arts from 1977-1980, then moved onto curating a successful series of printmaking exhibitions at the Wellington City Gallery. Fascinated by the interaction of paint and water she has created a series of works that are liquid and formless.

First off she filled a bath tub with water, lay plastic sheets on the water and applied paint, and allowed it to mix with the water. Creating a shifting ground for a canvas, she found a way to apply the paint so that it continued to respond to the natural chemical forces beyond her control. These forces are active through the mixing of the water and paint through gravity and the shifting of the sheet by the motion of the bath tub water underneath. A chemical mix is played onto this canvas by the paint in the water being active through, as she describes, the “saturation, solubility, random probability and multiplicity.”

It is the random probability that gives this series of works its spark, it’s fascinating that randomness in art can create such beautiful patterns.

Two of the paintings showed similarities and reminded me of the synapse patterns I used to see while playing the cult Commodore Amiga game Mind Walker back in the 1980s. Random patterns in art are something I have always been a fan of, the mandatory mandlebrots most of us were forced to stare at after our 4th form maths teachers had cranked on the Bell + Howell 16mm projector were never a chore for me.

These are paintings that are simple yet highly original, and I was thankful that I wasn’t watching a B-Grade horror flick after all, as they are too simple and never original.

Finally, here is what McIntosh has to say about this innovative use of bath tubs and paint, “I have collected these paint/chemical reactions by pressing canvas or plastic sheets onto the surface of the paint and water. The paint stains the sheet. By this action I am able to record the paint and water. This enables me to study the water surface, the chemicals involved and the behavior of these chemicals.”

Bowen Galleries is located at 35 Ghuznee Street and also doubles as Milk Crate, an excellent café, if you are heading into Video Ezy nearby then pop in and grab a coffee on the way and check out Jill McIntosh’s excellent interaction between paint and water.

Bowen Galleries
35 Ghuznee Street


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