Meet Gem Van Gils
About Gem Van Gils
Swindon-based artist Gem Van Gils chose to base her Swindog design around the Mexican-born artist, Frida Kahlo. Gem has painted Frida’s portrait, surrounded by vibrant tropical flowers and animals, full of symbols of hope and transition, which are frequent themes in the artist’s paintings.
The design includes a quote from Frida: “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” It is believed that this quote symbolises Kahlo’s emotional emancipation from her disabled body and ability to enjoy life.
Gem instantly connected this message with the work of Julia’s House when learning about their amazing care for seriously ill children and their families.
One of Frida Kahlo’s most famous paintings is named ‘Viva la Vida’ which translates to Long Live Life – a celebration of life, and a message that Gem feels sums up her design.
Where did you hear about The Big Dog Art Trail and what made you want to be a part of it?
I first heard about it on social media and I instantly wanted to get involved.
I’ve seen some of the other sculpture trails around in Bristol and London and I always thought it would be an exciting project to be part of.
Can you talk us through your design, which will be seen on the trail at Queens Park this summer?
Without giving too much away, I can say it will filled with lots of lively foliage, it will have a tropical feel to it.
There is going to be a lot of symbolism in there as well. I studied art history at university and it is something I love seeing in paintings.
It will have symbols that are very related to Julia’s House, like home, prosperity and longevity.
How is it painting on a Swindog sculpture compared to what you are used to?
It is a bit daunting. It has been a really exciting challenge though.
I am really enjoying it and I thought I would have more of a struggle than I have had adapting but I think it has given me a lot of motivation to explore different mediums.
As a Swindon artist, what does it mean to have your sculpture on display on The Big Dog Art Trail, which starts on July 15?
It is amazing, as someone who lives in Swindon.
I will be able to go and see it and being able to have other people I know go and see the sculpture and the rest of the trail.
I love the fact that I can take my family along, especially with my sculpture situated in Queens Park. It is going to be lovely to see my nieces and nephews go and see it.
Bringing more art into the community in Swindon is another big thing for me, which I know a lot of people are hungry for. It is going to be awesome.Visit Gem Van Gils’ website