Polly Gilroy features in The Art Paper: Casting shadows in space

The Art Paper
Casting shadows in space
18 May, 2022

Hannah Crichton speaks to Polly Gilroy about her recent exhibition, Traces.

Can you expand on how light is utilised in Traces, and how you came to examine the relationship between light and shadow?

Where Shadow Chases Light, my graduate exhibition at Massey, was what led me to this relationship. I was thinking about transparency and how light was cast through the fabric. My window installations in Traces create a muted viewing portal , and allow the work to be accessed from all sides. Light passing through offers a depth that shifts; and doesn’t happen with my wall-mounted pieces.

One of the most integral components of this exhibition is the sun. The window works turn into drawings throughout the day; they change depending on the weather. On a sunny day there are square shadow reflections of shimmering trees, whereas a cloudy day is more moody.


Colour is essential to your practice. Previous works have thrummed with a seemingly natural glow, hence my likening your works to changes of state in nature. Can you expand on your use of colour, particularly the nuanced hues; and how Traces examines the perception of depth?

Over the last couple of years I have been exploring how separate layers can change the colour of a work, and how light can also impact this. Multiple tonal layers create different colours. I often play with the tones of the inner frame and backing, creating a complete shift of colour once the work is finished and the fabric is in place.

I explore how to layer colours to make the fabric glow—so you’re looking at the work and beyond the work. Often, when you get close to my work, you can’t see where it ends. The silk conceals all of the secrets.