Roberts Gallery Blog
Roberts Gallery Blog

Rachel Gareau (An Education)

A personal message from Daniel Gallay on what Gareau’s work means to him:

“I’ve been with Roberts Gallery for about 12 years now. The first time I walked in I knew nothing about art or galleries except that I wanted to be the type of person who did. In the time I’ve spent here, I’ve learned huge amounts about art and artists, skill and material, history and culture. It’s taken time to learn and relearn these things, and it’s a rare and valuable education. There have also been parts of this education that have been very personal, and one of the first of those moments came from the work of Rachel Gareau.

In one of my first years at the gallery, while I was helping to pack for an art fair, the gallery received some last-minute things from the framer. Among them were some small works on paper by Rachel, and I knelt down to look at one in particular. As I held it up to look at it more closely, I had one of the first of what have been very important experiences. I don’t remember the piece exactly, but I do remember it was blue – mostly shades of cerulean and ultramarine. The way the colours were applied reminded me of images of stained glass by Chagall. What those blues made me experience was a glimpse of a very ancient relationship to the world – a sense of how we related to colours before we gave them names. Before we had language, before we called blue “blue”, what was our relationship to it? Blue was the sky, and blue was the ocean. Blue was infinite and all-encompassing, it sheltered us and sustained us. It surrounded us but was always unreachable, and it was almost nowhere else in nature. It was eternal and rare at once: blue was sacred. The feeling I had while holding this small painting was a sense of what is very human about experiencing the world.

I’ve tried over the years to communicate what it is in Rachel’s work that I find so special. I’ve talked about how she builds up layers of colour, creating a sense of depth and atmosphere. I’ve talked about her textures, and how she experiments but never at the expense of a piece. I’ve talked about how while some artists depict light, Rachel’s work is more of an expression of light – not what light does, but what light is. That, in a way, explains what I find most important about her work – not how it’s made, but how it is. The sense I’ve always gotten from her work is that as she makes it, she is both active and passive. She makes deliberate choices but still remains receptive to how the work is evolving and, in a way, expressing itself. There is an openness to her work — she seems to expect the work to be nothing more than what it is. The work in turn seems to expect the same from you. As I look at it I am met with a presence that who I am and how I choose to engage with it are entirely valid and accepted. In the space of that experience, I feel accepted for who I am, as I am. It is an experience I’ve tried to my best to translate into how I am and how I live in the world. It’s a very beautiful part of this rare education, and I’m grateful for it.”

Image detail: LE CIEL SEMBLE EN TRAIN DE DESCENDRE, 2018 by Rachel Gareau / 8 x 8 inches /mixed media on paper