There is something so subtle, elegant, and embracing in Gal Schindler’s paintings. Her figures are mostly outlines, however, they hold a transformative power and convey a sense of profoundness. Playing with colour intuitively, the artist creates a universe where the women she depicts can live freely with joy, confidence, fear, shame, pleasure, or pain. On view until May 24th, the Ginny on Frederick gallery in London is hosting a solo show of Gal’s work titled Wishing Well, where you can experience that softness and freedom of being on your own skin.
Hi Gal, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. To get to know you better at this moment in time, what songs/albums, TV series/films or books are you currently obsessed with or listening/watching/reading?
Dreams by Akira Kurosawa is a film I really love. There is a meditative quality to it that I connect to. The colours, rich compositions, clothing, the dialogue with nature, the innocence and childhood… All these elements make it universal and special. Sofia Coppola also came to mind in relation to my recent show. Marie Antoinette is that kind of film that can quickly uplift and sweeten your mood. I’m excited to watch her new film, Priscilla.
Lately at the studio, I’ve been listening to jazz: Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington – both can get you into rhythms. Natalie Bergman has this spiritual power in her music, too, which I’ve liked for a while. Her songs have a simple sense of openness to them. I’m currently reading a book called The Hare with Amber Eyes and I enjoy reading through Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act, reflecting on questions that bubble up while making.
I’ve read your father is a surgeon, and growing up with books about human anatomy impacted the subjects you depict today. What do you recall from those early years going through those books? Any other things you feel that, consciously or subconsciously, influenced what you paint today?
I recall thinking about bodies. Arms, legs, bones, systems, structures – everything tangible, material. Perhaps it was an early perpetual reminder of how sophisticated our physical existence is. I think there is something in my paintings that deals with transformation. We experience drastic changes in our bodies while we grow and morph from puberty into maturity, and maybe, subconsciously, I conjure up memories of those tensions between childhood and adulthood, the feelings in between girlhood and womanhood.
Ginny on Frederick is currently presenting Wishing Well, your new solo show. In the press release, Francesca Gavin writes that it “relates both to the reflective, fluid nature of water”. Why is water important in your paintings? What role does it play?
It’s important because you can never pin it down. It’s nuance. Water is everything and nothing. It is precarious, endlessly changing yet constant, timeless. To me it embodies a space of holding contradictions and of freedom. I like transparency and invisibility, thinking of phycological labyrinths, push and pull between adaptability and stubbornness. Since this is where I would like to exist, and as Pat Steir mentioned in an interview I watched recently, “through painting this is how I learn”. What functions as the true mirror? Is it the painter or the canvas?
I truly love your use of colour; your paintings range from earthy tones to bright reds to more subtle, softer hues. However, they all feel cohesive in a way. Could you guide us through your process and how do you choose the palette you’re going to use?
Colour comes very intuitively, there are no strict guidelines or limitations to my palette. It is impulsive. I mostly struggle with choosing or deciding on a colour before I start to make a painting. I look for colour combinations in everything I look at, from nature to images online and other paintings or fragments of other artworks. I’m learning as I go, and colour often changes while working things out.
“I like to think of my female figures as studies of women’s lives, with shame, fear, pleasure, pain, confidence, joy – all that. I hope they can speak to anyone, not only to women.”
We’ve heard and read a lot about the male gaze in recent years. Since you paint a lot of nude women, how do you see your own gaze differ from that?
I like to give women power. But also understand them with all their insecurities and vulnerabilities. I don’t sit and think about it, but I realise that is one of the reasons why I have the need to paint them. I like to think of my female figures as studies of women’s lives, with shame, fear, pleasure, pain, confidence, joy – all that. I hope they can speak to anyone, not only to women. That can feel very frustrating, how to get out of that box. They are painted for men as much as they are painted for women. They are made to be looked at but more so to be felt, not as an object but as a source for self-reflection. If things only exist in relation to one another, what is self-reflection? I try to reveal the crossovers of how we all feel, see, perceive and look at ourselves as individuals. 
In addition to women, I see a lot of flowers in the paintings of Wishing Well. The flora has often been linked to the feminine. What’s your take on that connection (women-flowers) in these paintings?
I like to celebrate that connection in these paintings. Embrace it, honour it, expose and explore the positives in it. Women and nature are linked, as life, water, spring, empathy, sensitivity. It should be and is for everyone.
As a curiosity, what’s your favourite flower and why?
The plumeria flower is close to my heart because it reminds me of my childhood. We had them in our home, and I waited for them to come out every summer. They have a very particular smell, they’re very exotic and they make me think of the ocean. I like when they fall on the earth, in one piece, as if they transformed into precious stones.
On your Instagram, you post about artists, paintings or photos that you like, including the works of Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Robert Rauschenberg, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Paul Klee, and others. As an artist, how important is it for you to keep looking for references and discovering the works of others who came before you? Also, any recent discoveries you’d like to share with us?
I like looking. It’s an addictive habit and a compass. But I can’t do that for too long as it never ends and can feel debilitating to the connection with your own visual language. I didn’t know much about Sylvie Fleury and lately been somewhat obsessed with her, especially those Mondrian shoes series and makeup paintings. So good!
To finish, what are you currently working on in the studio that you can share? Any exciting projects or pieces?
I am working on a few paintings which will be in different exhibitions in the next few months. I started working on some large-scale paintings I’m excited about, with the space for larger bodies to be in action, two or more figures to exist together instead of a single one. It will be part of Frieze London this October, which I look forward to as I have never shown there, and people who have been close to me and to my practice will be able to experience it in the flesh as well.