Words by Brit Parks
She has made you a net to hook your missing skin. If that won’t suffice she has formed an escape door for one in red stringy fur. Last resort, a black rubber mirror that Dorian Gray would covet.
Bert Gilbert seemingly produces at a silent mach-worthy pace. Her hand touches every material as if they were born together. There exists no gap between the delicate embroidery of an eye to the steel bastions of lines to hang anything. Anything. As she does not meditate on materials, she lives with ideas under her skin. I suspect there is little space of consideration to her next object to conquer. She is akin to a bird that molts feathers to change appearance, perhaps to change fluff, perhaps to comfort everyone. She makes a nest for a nest.
Sophie Calle asked for permission to lay an empty white dress on Sigmund Freud’s couch. The couch that is now cared for like a king’s abandoned throne. The flat dress is screaming absence for breakfast. He is missing. She is missing. It begs the question of why materialism can strike our hearts with such a concrete blow. Absence is a complexity of I needed you, and now you are air. You find yourself desperately sucking in air. It feels a bit dreadful, the panic of searching.
Bert Gilbert is a breathing work of art. I can’t imagine her having that thought. I can, however, imagine her in her heavy British-lilt scolding me for the suggestion. She is not keeping her ego company. She seems to be hell bent on devising a method to keep invisible emotions company. She hand sews what appears to be the equivalent of what ten machines could do in an hour. To her, the crucial impact is her hand guiding the metal and thread.
Bert has taken on ancestral chimes as if she has a responsibility to the wind that is responsible for their clanging. Her drive to create her own animal pelts with razor precision has a casual deployment. She hangs them on branches as if the fabric and stitching are salted meat drying in the sun.
Shock corridors of netted up sorrow. Hooks to dazzle their passage. The scale of her corridors is exaggerated for a repeated entrance and exit. She isn’t creating to intimidate her audience with scale. She’s engineered a scale for them to hide in sweet mercy. You could offer a casted trauma that belongs in a hot pink bubble net as she would never want you laying on Freud’s couch. Oh the vulnerability would be abhorrent!
Bert was given a pile of mink fur as a donation. She proceeded to create an entire cocoon of the hair made for one and then scented it for a curious finish. She wore it in a gallery performance describing it as a slow parade. Her manifesto is a reported as, ‘bleeding between the lines’. An acute observation of how subtext functions.
When prompted on her practice she proclaims it a record keeping, a kind of visual record. She has given visual mediums the power of careful attention. One begins to feel an obsessive pull of tracking, the language of tracking repurposed. Her instinct is perhaps born of a lack in care to record her when she needed it. It’s as if she has manufactured every object that one may need if they were handed wrecks of the truth.
There is a profound greatness in multiplying objects to create a library of protection. She is the recent mother of a furred wall hanging with eyes. As if to say I see you softly, I will witness as a poured favor. She has ecstatically lit up colors of abstraction to fill her armory. Color is a mainstay and there is a particular command of red. Red is blood. Red is the commonality of the physical pain we share.
I am under your skin
A beg stare hysteria
A door as sin
and you you will
stay inside with no doors
a bleak louse
your head is a future feature
Photographs 1,2,7 by Nerys Jone.
Image 3: ‘The Scales of Justice’, 2020-2021, by The Sinistry (Bert Gilbert and Izzet Ers) , scrim, household paint, ribbon, wooden beads, mixed silk threads.
Image 4: ‘Variant II’, 2022, inherited dyed fur, oil paint, canvas. As shown at Gallery 46, Whitechapel, London and Kunst and Friends Show. Photograph by the artist.
Image 5: ‘The Record Keepers: animita muscaria’, 2017-2021. As shown at Gallery Mimmo Scognamiglio, Milan. Group show curated by James Putman. Photo credit: Bruno Bani
Follow: @bert_gilbert_official / www.bertgilbert.co.uk