Gillian Willans

Selected Works



2005 – 2008:  Masters of Fine Arts – Painting, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB
1999 – 2000:  Diploma of Arts Administration, Grant MacEwan University, Edmonton
1998:  Fine Arts Painting Exchange, Kent Institute of Art and Design, Canterbury
1995 – 1999:  Bachelor of Fine Arts - Painting, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB


2011: Parsons Paris, International Creative Residency, Paris France 


2016: Hiraeth, Multicultural Heritage Centre Gallery, Stony Plain AB
2015: Another Time Another Place, Scott Gallery, Edmonton AB
2013: Mise-en-scène, Telephone Booth Gallery, Toronto ON
2011: Land Line, Telephone Booth Gallery, Toronto Ontario Canada
2008: Hiding in Plain Sight, MFA Thesis Exhibition, FAB Gallery, Edmonton AB
2005: The Long Walk Home, Eastern Front Gallery, Toronto ON
2003: Personal Space, Eastern Front Gallery, Toronto ON


2014: Fresh Paint: Snap Shot of Painting in Edmonton, Enterprise Square Gallery, Edmonton AB
2014: New Painters/New Work, Scott Gallery, Edmonton AB
2013: To Inspire: Visual Arts Instructors' Exhibition,  Edmonton AB
2012: Converge, Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton AB
2011: Parsons Paris, Residency final presentation, Paris France
2009: Toronto Outdoor Show,Toronto ON
2008: Neighbourhood Tales, Allen Grey Centre Gallery, Edmonton AB            
2008: Re-Drawing the Line, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton AB         
2008: 11404,Hab Studio Gallery, Edmonton AB          
2007: Turf, Peter Robertson Gallery, Edmonton AB
2007: Crash Pad, Latitude 53, Edmonton AB
2007: Alumni Exhibition,  Eastern Front Gallery, Toronto ON
2007: Visual Thinking, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton AB
2006: Painting in Italy, FAB Gallery, Edmonton AB
2006: Fast Forward, FAB Gallery, Edmonton AB
2005: Scarborough Arts Council Art in the Park, Toronto ON
2005: Riverdale Art Walk,  Toronto ON
2005: Spirit of Our Times,  Zilberschmuck Gallery, Toronto ON
2004: Hang Man Gallery, Toronto ON
2004: Now Lounge,  Toronto ON
2003: Pulse Nine, Riverdale Art Walk, Toronto ON


2006– Present: Contract Painting Instructor, University of Alberta
2008 –Present: Contract Painting Instructor, Faculty of Extension University of Alberta
Fall 2013: Faculty of Extension, Painting Curriculum Author  University of Alberta
Fall 2012: Special Guest Lecturer, Augustana University, Camrose AB
Winter 2012: Special Guest Lecturer,  Augustana University, Camrose AB


2016   Alberta Foundation for the Arts
2011   BMO Financial, Toronto Ontario Canada
2010   Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton Alberta Canada
2009   City Regions Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton Alberta Canada
2008   University of Alberta Art Collection, Edmonton Alberta Canada



Artist Statement

My work deals with a wide range of conceptual ideas that are filtered through the lens of personal experience and grounded in the history and development of painting. It is my goal to utilize and manipulate the tradition of realism to help create unease within my rendered spaces. By painting images of the domestic realm I hope to capture my interest in social role-playing and my own struggles to define my belonging. Focusing on creating mood with the dramatic use of light and shadow, the private living rooms become a stage in which a range of social interactions play-out. As all space is defined by activity, void of the creators, rooms will always remain haunted revealing the true motivation of the social structure that supports it. My aim is to have the spaces reflect the middle class ideals and gender roles of the people who should be present not unlike the 17th century Dutch Genre painting I openly reference. With the aid of banal everyday activities and social traditions a framework hides for future generational relationships are encoded. I am interested in suggesting the value systems found in gender, family, privacy, intimacy, comfort and luxury, while encouraging the viewer to think about the domestic spaces of past and present relevant to his or her daily life. Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space writes, “A living creature fills an empty refuge, images inhabit, and all corners are haunted, if not inhabited”. In this way the very geometry of a room is simultaneously full and empty.


In Henri Lefebvre’s The Critique of Everyday Life he writes of the disconnection and alienation found in modern everyday life. In a cyclical fashion, the desire for leisure and wealth takes us away from our homes. The more we are away from the place that defines our values and meaning, the more we feel alienation. The more we feel disconnected the more we desire to replicate and emulate this ideal of “home”. Lefebvre writes to see properly the errors of our ways “we need to place them at a reasonable, well-judged distance, like the objects we see before us. Then their many- sided strangeness becomes apparent: in relation to ourselves, but also within themselves and in relation to themselves. In this strangeness lies their truth, the truth of their alienation. It is then that consciousness of alienation – that strange awareness of the strange – liberates us, or begins to liberate us, from alienation.” (Lefebvre p. 20). At the heart of my research is a desire to utilize this sense of “reasonable distance” both formally in my choice of compositions and colour and metaphorically in painting as a means to draw attention to our relationship to specific sociological symbols and to question how we find meaning in the every-day activity as well as the spaces we reside. Steeped in art historical references, I purposely create multiple narrative entry points compositionally suggesting a voyeurs’ hiding place alongside my forensic inventories and secret desires.