A Studio Visit with Gil Given


Gil Given is an artist living and working in Nashville. As a painter who recently gained some artistic momentum since retiring and committing to the studio full time, he submitted to Ground Floor’s 5th Annual Juried Show, Otherworldliness . His entered piece won Best of Show , earning himself a solo exhibition this October. The momentum is picking up speed now as Gil prepares for his show. He tells me he is aiming to complete 20 pieces; a feat only the devout artist could pull off by October. Gil is every bit of the word.

Gil was kind enough to not only welcome me into his studio, but his home where his paintings hang in every room like an architectural timeline of the work. When you enter his studio, the first thing that you’re bound to notice is jazz music permeating the room. This is to no surprise as one body of paintings are called his Jazz Series. He points to one newly finished piece and tells me that it is called Here Comes the Sun , based on Taj Mahal’s Woodstock album. The way he relates music to the pieces is inextricably tied to color, another personal interest.

When I press him about how the music makes its way in he tells me, “Color for me is what is most important. I’m interested in adjacents and the color wheel. I’ll take a single color and work the monochromatic-like the piece I showed you, Cerulean Falls . I like iridescents that shimmer, it adds a certain depth to color. A lot of it is basic color theory, and when you’re listening to music, just, how does it make you feel? Is there a brightness to it? The music of Dave Brubeck versus Miles Davis; there’s a different feel to that, so the color can affect it. The Jazz 2 piece is called

Cool Blues because, you know, Miles Davis; he was definitely the father of the cool jazz scene. But does that mean all of Miles’ music is blue? No.”

Gil is showing two other bodies of work in addition to the Jazz Series: Paintings for Narrow Spaces, and the Sentinel Series. When I ask him to explain the Sentinel Series, he says, “Think about a lighthouse in space.” Paintings for Narrow Spaces, he tells me, is exactly what it sounds like. Gil found himself interested in the architectural spaces that are small and overlooked. He began to see that some his pieces could find a home in the small spaces that always find themselves vacant.

Architecture seems to be of importance to his work. There was interesting relationship between the paintings and walls, ribbons and floor. Light from windows and lamps stacks out the color, and creates a second “shadow painting.” The angles of the pieces hung in relation to his home. Much of Gil’s early work was done on huge shaped canvases with an emphasis on line (think Frank Stella). He talks about the evolution from these paintings to what we will be seeing at Ground Floor: “I was doing these Stella-like paintings and started thinking- what if the color just left the canvas

and…plop. I made this piece that was 14 feet long and the stripes just sort of spilled onto the ground. That’s how the ribbon came to be.”


You can catch the work at our gallery during the month of October. Help yourself to some inspired listening in the meantime:

Miles Davis

Dave Brubeck

The Modern Jazz Quartet



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