Contemporary artist Gerry Judah challenges the boundaries between painting and sculpture. His paintings are inspired by images of war zones—scenes from Eastern European and Middle Eastern conflicts – and born in India of Baghdadi grandparents, his work reflects his sense of roots. Judah’s blanket ‘white’ and ‘blackouts’ have a levelling effect which enable him to cross cultural, political and religious divides. Ostensibly the artist is engaged with the detritus, the aftermath of conflict, but his paintings relate as much to an angry planet as they do to world politics. It is hard to engage with the work and not be reminded of the tsunami in Asia, the hurricane that submerged New Orleans, or a melting polar cap. Whether these scenes are a result of war or natural disaster, they raise existential questions. We are reminded of our vulnerability, our place in existence.
Gerry Judah’s paintings reflects the scenes that we witness daily as reported by the media. Twisted steel cabling amid the rubble of concrete where once stood homes and communities creates an abstracted and disturbing aesthetic. On close inspection one can pick out clearly the
remnants of individual homes—walls are torn, staircases ripped out—but as one steps back the image dissolves into abstraction and a stillness ripples across the canvas. We are witness to a ‘ceasefire’; a moment frozen in time where there are neither survivors nor people left to fight. Judah creates his landscapes from scores of miniature buildings, immaculately constructed from foam board, complete with solar panels, water towers and staircases, which he systematically destroys after fixing them onto canvas. The accumulated ‘rubble’, and the sea of empty white canvas on which it floats, is lacquered with layers of acrylic gesso to create ‘white on white’ abstract paintings. The presence of what has been removed is palpable. The ‘presence of absence’ reminds us of the house spirits of Rachel Whiteread worked into soft plaster, and the sense of abstracted embodiment created by Robert Ryman.
Judah’s work is full of contradictions, both conceptually and visually. He creates abstracted figurative paintings that are sculptural. Shadow and light created by the relief work are played out across the canvas as if it were a lunar landscape. Judah’s paintings have an unearthly quality—an ephemeral feel that he weaves into a stark reality. The purity and silence of the white, like virgin snow, is poignant given the darkness of the subject matter. He manages to create paintings that are both disturbing and beautiful.
GERRY JUDAH BIOGRAPHY
Gerry Judah was born in 1951 in Calcutta, India and grew up in West Bengal before his family moved to London when he was ten years old. He studied Foundation Art and Design at Barnet College of Art (1970–1972) before obtaining a First-Class Honours degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London (1972–1975) and studying sculpture as a postgraduate at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London (1975–1977).
He went on to build a reputation for innovative design, working in film, television, theatre, museums and public spaces, creating settings for productions at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Royal Festival Ballet, London Contemporary Dance, Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre, BBC, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin. He has also designed spectacular sculptures for the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed and bridges in London and Cambridge.
In 2000, Gerry Judah was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London to create a large model of the selection ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau for the Holocaust Exhibition which was opened by the Queen in 2000. Extensive research and numerous visits to Auschwitz led Judah to produce a highly acclaimed work that encouraged him to take his art in yet a new direction. Returning to his fine art beginnings he began to make art born of his reflections on historical events. He created a body of large three-dimensional paintings exploring the devastations of war and the ravages man has made upon the environment caused by recent conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East with solo exhibitions: FRONTIERS at the Timber Yard, London in 2005, ANGELS at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London in 2006 and the British High Commission, India in 2007, MOTHERLANDS at the Louise T Blouin Foundation, London in 2007, COUNTRY at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton 2009, BABYLON at Flowers East Gallery, London 2009 and COUNTRY at the Fitzroy Gallery, New York in 2010.
Gerry Judah’s work has been exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Camden Arts Centre and Yorkshire Sculpture Park and has entered many international public and private collections including the Charles Saatchi Collection London, Anita and Poju Zabludowicz Collection London, Imperial War Museum London, Essi & Fatima Maleki Collection London, David Roberts Collection London, Chris Drake Collection Sussex, Centre for Arts Israel, Irena Hochman Collection New York, Bobby Kapoor Collection India, Museum of Old and New Art Australia and The Earl of March Goodwood.