In this series of new works Gardner places his attention on invented interior imagery, navigating a terrain between abstraction and representation. Gardner’s focus is on windows, doorways, paintings within paintings, exits or entrances, both in to the paintings, and the various spaces within them. Ever disrupting linear narratives, Gardner invites the idea of passages or a never ending series inside the private world of the works themselves.
Working from an extensive collection of his own drawings, Gardner utilizes these in the form of collage, to produce an ambiguous, hallucinatory painted space, inhabited by abstracted and dismantled still lives, plants and stylized figures. This way of working allows Gardner to create new distortions in scale and space; bringing together two or more ideas which come from different streams of thought, which in turn allow Gardner to create something out of the surprise of discovery, incorporating chance into the creation of a pictorial abstraction. Gardner unifies these collaged drawings by meticulously rendering them in detail as paintings, whilst carefully orchestrating composition and sensual, vibrant colour. Having always mined his subconscious for imagery alongside art historical reference and reverence, Gardner presents work which is both layered and visually multifaceted.
Gardner’s imagery here is increasingly complex, presenting only presumptions of reality, and as a result we are left, as viewers, only with a hint as to their purpose, place or time. Recurring forms offer multiple interpretations of a single object or subject, from one painting to the next and by presenting images in flat, compressed planes, the works become illusory tableaus.
Gardner talks as much about the process of viewing them as he does about the subject matter, discussing them as images in which you could let your mind detach, enter and wander around in. He strives for the work to offer a form of pleasure and something that can be absorbed slowly. Indeed many of the works include leisure imagery; the beach, musical instruments, viewing art works, plants, vases and dandy fashions.
There is in turn, a feeling of a daydream, a sense of being in some way removed. The instruments do not seem to be being played, the figures are suspended in time, and as a result the works offer a sort of joyful mundanity, capturing a labyrinth world, akin to the aesthetics of trompe l’oeil. It is this combination of decorative pleasure, displacement and strangeness which holds Gardner’s interest; this creation of a particular reading in which on one hand invites access and escape, whilst at the same time, withholds it.