‘Time Takes a Cigarette’

The Old Library, Lyme Regis 1998



‘Time Takes a Cigarette’ : Gail Sagman paintings,1978-1998


At the old Library in Bridport visitors are offered a moment to pause surrounded by a collection of quiet, handsome paintings. The pictures range in size from small watercolour drawings to large unmounted canvases. The display is spare, making the most of the Victorian institutional setting. The library’s faded provincial classicism frames the images perfectly. It provides a set of compositional rules whose truth claims are eternal and which are ubiquitously played over in the carefully crafted works.


The moment to pause is twenty years of Gail Sagman’s work. The layout is not chronological and the experience is in no way didactic. It is oddly self-deprecating, like the allusion implied by the David Bowie quote of the title. You move around through a set of themes. The first theme is the significance of paint and the craft of painting itself. Sometimes saturated colour rolled wet onto canvas or board, sometimes dry, waxy smears thrown on like last-minute make-up. Then there is the working of levels, the interplay of planes of colour as they run against each other or submerge each other. The interplay between very carefully structured drawing and more intuitively handled paint is always interesting and often surprising. Occasionally recognition forces itself upon you and the pattern shifts into representation.


Gail Sagman, originally from Scotland, has lived in many parts of the world: South America, India, Madagascar and for several years in Czechoslovakia as it transferred itself into the Czech Republic. In Prague she was involved in the emergent club and theatre scene. She trained at St martins in one of its high periods when seriousness and experiment went together. She now lives and works in Lyme Regis.


Charles Ford

Department of Art History     University College London


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