A Visual Conversation: Paintings by Margaret Glew

Fine arts writing about painter Margaret Glew

Only recently, I have let go of that part of me that self-edits. The part that says, ‘That’s too personal, I can’t let people see that about me.’ And, it’s not that I am not afraid, I am. It’s more of a ‘do-it-anyway’ kind of thing. When I think about my life and my work, three aspirations come to mind: striving for courage, honesty, and generosity. Not so easy. But it is important to let go of any pretense, and just be who I am now.
—Margaret Glew, 2011


The paintings of Margaret Glew are arrestingly beautiful, serving as metaphors for the emotional landscape that we all experience—one that changes from day to day like the weather. Composed with a visual language developed over many years of working, they throb with an undercurrent of energy that is simultaneously bold and withdrawn.

Blue, black, gray, and orange dominate her painterly pieces. When looking at them, I sometimes feel myself pulled into uncertain watery depths, and in others, transformed by a hellish fire. Her cool gray palette finds its way into all of her paintings, serving to counterbalance intense color. The predominately gray paintings seem to give way to a bit of resignation and restfulness.

I spoke with Margaret recently, and she reflected on her process and work. Like many painters, she finds it’s often hard to begin a piece, and although she procrastinates and sometimes looks for excuses not to begin, “compulsion always wins,” she notes. She customarily begins by covering the canvas with a thin coat of red, orange, or yellow, applying it loosely and unevenly to quickly cover the blank whiteness. “I don’t do any drawing. I just start by building up paint, making marks, and waiting for something to happen that I can react to.” She compares this process to automatic writing in which things are allowed to emerge from the subconscious.

I do believe the work has a voice of its own. I never really have an idea about a painting when I start, and they seem to develop out of the process. The best ones surprise me. The work happens at a level that is intuitive, emotional, and nonverbal. You could call it a visual conversation.

In the most recent works she has begun by scribbling random words or sentences, then covering over most of them, since they have served their purpose. “There are at least three or four totally different paintings beneath every finished one, but the idea of ‘finished’ is sometimes quite arbitrary,” she reflects. If she becomes too attached to certain parts of the composition, she tightens up, resulting in what she describes as “I-hate-this, what-the-hell!” frame of mind, and she lets go of attachment to the outcome again.

Painting is a process of building up and stripping away again in a search for what is fundamental. It moves back and forth between complexity and simplicity in an effort to find that place where nothing can be added or taken away without destroying the whole.

Her paintings influence one another and she works on several at once, a seemingly vital part of keeping the process moving for her, allowing her eye, heart, and hand to supersede the thinking mind.

In the aftermath, she contemplates the works. “I don’t trust the ones that come easily, they never last for me,” she asserts, underscoring her determination to dig deeper and plumb the depths of her process. “Last year I made 60 paintings, not all will survive, already I am dying to paint over some of them.” And when she does obliterate a painting, a new one will be born… one that could not have happened without the death of its sister.

To read more of Katherine Duncan Aimone’s writings about artists, go to the Samples Page.

3 Responses to A Visual Conversation: Paintings by Margaret Glew
  1. Exploring this website. So beautifully executed!

  2. Beautiful work by Margaret – felt like I was in the room listening to her talk about her work.
    Thanks Katherine and Margaret

  3. Beautiful work by Margaret, wonderfully articulate piece by Katherine…

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