By Betsy DiJulio

On a recent weeknight, a veritable spring still life stretched across one end of Sheila Giolitti’s table in her sun-drenched dining room: the most bodacious salad of crisp and colorful vegetables imaginable, fresh hunks of corn on the cob glistening with cumin-infused lime, perfectly browned breadcrumbs cascading down a stack of steamed asparagus, and a bottle of Prosecco.  

Occupying the opposite end of the expansive dining table was a tangle, equally enticing, of multihued  inks, pens, and powders spilling out of plastic storage bags while, down below, Gucci, a pit bull puppy, enthusiastically hurtled himself between our legs and works-in-progress propped here and there.

Barely a week later, a Sunday afternoon afforded the opportunity for a tranquil sneak preview of Giolitti’s solo show, currently on view at the Offsite Gallery.  Those unfinished pieces now expertly framed all in white and meticulously hung in a show that is as elegant as it is refined.  But if you think it is decorative, you have missed the point.  

Represented by Jankossen Contemporary, Adah Rose Gallery, and MiXX Projects + Atelier, Giolitti is a veteran of the art fair scene, both as a dealer—she owns Mayer Fine Art—and internationally sought-after artist.  But she has not shown her own work in her home base of Norfolk in a very long time.  

Having earned her BFA at Middlesex University in London, the work of this former figurative painter has metamorphosed into highly abstract proliferations.  In response to a man who once pronounced them “about nothing,” Giolitti’s quick retort was, “No, they are about everything.”

And, indeed, Giolitti’s organic worlds are an embodiment of her quantum physics-fueled beliefs about the interconnectedness of consciousness and matter.  Like the expanding and contracting universe itself, her paintings are compellingly paradoxical at every turn.  Working first in resin on panel, then on Yupo (a synthetic paper), and most recently on a proprietary surface with an almost buttery finish, each piece is both a microcosm and macrocosm.  Her imaginative forms ebb and flow, split and coalesce.  Chaos controlled.

Equal parts fission and fusion, potential and kinetic energy, and exuberance and restraint, all of the work takes shape through a layered, meditative and Zen-like process of building and removing, embedding and encasing.  Emphatic marking butts up against gentle coaxing.  Simultaneously dynamic and static, rogue and systemic, opaque and translucent, the imagery suggests and implies, flirting with the familiar and interjecting the unexpected.

Working in a palette of blacks, grays, whites, rich earthy neutrals, and vibrant shocks of fuschia, orange, and periwinkle blue, Giolitti creates surface events and responds to them.  Each one gives rise to the next leaving behind a physical record that is sometimes revealed, sometimes concealed.  Playfully spurting and energetically bursting patterns overlay sensuously oozing forms that morph one into the next with an irregularity that seems random.  Yet, chaos theory seems to be at work:  a rational structure underlying what appears to be the opposite.

Beware the particular delights and irresistible seduction of pattern and color to the exclusion of the spaces between, for in these worlds, presence balances absence.  If you find yourself engaging in a process akin to searching-for-faces-in-the-clouds, however, you will be forgiven.  For Giolitti’s shapes, spaces, and linear progressions intentionally, if obliquely, reference natural forms: a growth ring here, a fungal shelf there.