Acrylic, copper, copper leaf, and shellac on board
760 x 3040mm
As with earlier works by Gimblett, like Blue Violet, the spaces in Venus embody ‘contemplative emptiness’. Here, however, viewers are more immediately implicated in the process of meaning projection by seeing their own reflections in the shiny surfaces of the work. Gimblett uses reflection to suggest that there can be no question of art separate from an audience.
The surfaces in this work have an immediate allure, and Gimblett has sometimes been criticised for being overly decorative. In fact, his interest in decorativism derives from an Indian philosophical system that elevates the decorative as a mode of representing transcendent values.
As a maker of icons, Gimblett functions much as did the painters of the Byzantine Iconoclasms of the 8th and 9th centuries. For them, images of holy persons were regarded as sacrilegious, so they restricted themselves to painting highly ornamented and decorated symbols such as the cross with the intention of conveying spiritual power abstractly.
Venus is made in gleaming copper because that is the metal traditionally associated with the Greek goddess of love, Venus. One panel has been heat-treated, another deeply etched with acid, while the remaining two are highly polished reflective surfaces, which contrast sharply with the heavily worked decorativeness of the other two.
Like a holy image, which must be dusted and cleaned to ensure its proper presentation, this is a work that requires regular upkeep to make sure that its surfaces continue to bathe the surrounding environment with colour.