20 February 2018 § Leave a comment
“I am rather like a Dr. Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artist’s work. I see their worlds from multiple or schizophrenic perspectives, through all their eyes. Their sources of inspiration suggest things I would never normally see – rocks floating in far-off galaxies, for example, or a bowl of flowers in an 18th-century room, or a child in a fancy-dress costume. The scenes may have been relatively normal to Rembrandt or Fragonard but because of the passage of time and the difference in culture, to me they are fantastical.” Glenn Brown
Glenn Brown’s latest show, amazingly his first major UK one since 2009, takes advantage of the large spaces of Gagosian’s recently opened (see here) Mayfair gallery. This is a hugely impressive, state of the art space and Brown’s classical themes and inspirations are well suited to this gallery’s wooden floors and dark walls as opposed to the cliched concrete floored white cubes found in most commercial spaces nearby.
The lighting is low and each work is spotlight whilst besuited security guards add to the feeling of entering a major London Museum rather than a west end gallery. This seems entirely relevant since Brown appropriates from classical artists that include Rembrandt, Delacroix, Greuze, and Raphael in a variety of genres like landscape, portrait, flower and history painting.
He usually uses Photoshop to distort, merge and colour the selected sources in sophisticated compositions that fuse diverse histories – Renaissance, Impressionism and Surrealism. The original may in turns be obvious or hardly recognisable. Sometimes he puts them in historic gilt frames to confuse us more.
In his oils, hybrid figures painted in intricate swirls reveal the sumptuous potential of oil paint. While these paintings give the illusion of thick impasto with volume, closer scrutiny reveals smooth surfaces that glow with a vital force. Up close form also disappears in complex swirls and vortices as if slipping from memory in some drug induced trance or dreamlike haze.
In graphic works Brown paints using largely black and white lines over a neutral ground. Meticulous, elongated brushstrokes reimagine works from the likes of Raphael and Guido Reni to create depth and animation in portraits that barely seem to exist.
There are also a significant number of sculptures, which we found slightly less successful. Elaborate masses are built from thick ‘strokes’ of coloured paint – perhaps imagine the likes of a sculptural Kossof. Some partially encase nineteenth-century bronze statues with growths of pulsating, gravity-defying paint.
This is a stunning exhibition of formidable technical ability and Brown impresses with an artistic language that transcends time and pictorial conventions. In his unique vision the abstract and the visceral, the rational and irrational, the beautiful and grotesque, churn in a dizzying amalgamation of reference and form. Not to be missed.
Glenn Brown, Come to Dust runs at Gagosian Mayfair until 17 March 2018
For more information visit www.gagosian.com
3 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Grimaldi Gavin (formerly Brancolini Grimaldi) is a modest sized Mayfair gallery that specialises in Contemporary Photography. However you will find little in the way of traditional photography here, no dull landscapes, fashion or journalistic works. No snaps of celebrities or bands dragged out of dusty archives and re-presented as ‘art’. No dreary documentary photography. Here you can enjoy real contemporary art of the highest quality that just happens to involve photography.
The galleries current exhibition is Florilegia, a group exhibition featuring photographic works by Goldschmied & Chiari, Fabio Zonta, Laura Letinsky, Jonny Briggs, and Sinaida Michalskaja. In medieval Latin a florilegium is a compilation of texts, the word deriving from flos (flower) and leger (to gather). In fitting with this title, Grimaldi Gavin has brought together disparate works in which flowers or plants feature, each offering a distinctive take on sociological and poetic encounters between art and nature.
For me the stand out works are from the Italian duo, Goldschmied & Chiari. Their Nympheas (2007) are large-scale panoramic photographs deliberately and playfully evoking Claude Monet’s paintings. Subverting the idyllic, unpolluted view of nature offered by the Impressionists, the flowers in Goldschmied & Chiari’s works are made of plastic bags, floating amongst the litter in the Tiber River, Rome.
The highly detailed and pristine flowers in Fabio Zonta’s works are removed from their natural context and shot against a stark white backdrop. Each specimen is either in full bloom or is on the edge of decay, the edges of the petals beginning to turn and brown. A reflection on both mortality and the transience of beauty these photographs are a modern memento mori. Apparently this is the first time his beautiful work has been exhibited in the UK.
Somewhat more enigmatic are Laura Letinsky’s carefully staged photographs that show elegiac arrangements of objects on tables – wilting flowers and petals, food, candle, and pottery. From the snappily titled ‘To Want For Nothing, Hardly More Than Ever and To Say It Isn’t So’ series these works allude to an unseen human presence and are reminiscent of 17th Century Dutch vanities.
A very clever young artists, who we have been watching carefully for a few years is Jonny Briggs. This time he has staged photographs of flowers in domestic settings that initially appear to be fake, manipulated or photoshopped. One shows a vase, flowers and backdrop painted magnolia, another a vase with the flowers in the base and the roots on display. These works are part of an ongoing series in which he explores the constructed reality of the family and the boundaries between child/adult, nature/culture and real/fake.
Newly discovered young artist Sinaida Michalskaja’s works are a series of large-scale photographs of windows. Each image presents a partially obscured interior and a reflection of the external world. Taking inspiration from the metaphorical and symbolic value of the window, these works show both the domesticated nature inside and a glimpse of untamed nature outside – mediated by the window frame.
Florilegia runs until 28 February 2015
For more information visit www.grimaldigavin.com