See Colleen Brown’s BAF Gallery solo show ‘That mountain is a good listener’ from May 31- July 21st, 2018 at 108 E Broadway. The opening reception will be held from 7-10PM on Thursday, May 31, and Brown will give an artist talk at BAF Gallery at 2PM on Saturday, June 16th.
In Conversation: Colleen Brown
With ‘That mountain is a good listener’, Colleen Brown expands her sculpturally-focused practice in unconventional new directions, drawing inspiration from such surprising sources as weather reports and hobbyist landscape painting to comment on the inevitable gap between representational art and the material experience to which it alludes. Extending the two-dimensional components of the works with gestural and sculptural elements, she seeks to achieve a balance of gesture, image, object, and symbol.
Read on to gain deeper insight into the show directly from the artist, and be sure to join us for the opening reception on Thursday, May 31st at 7PM.
Could you give us an overview of your upcoming BAF show, ‘That mountain is a good listener’? What types of work will be shown, and what are the concepts and ideas behind them?CB
Some works come from listening to weather news and trying to reconcile the scale of events with the low impact experience of a news clip. In other cases, I’m thinking of the difference between moving through water in a sailboat and looking at water in a picture. I’ve also been looking at old photographs. In earlier pictures of Canadian landscape people are often posing beside big piles of things, like logs, fish, or coal, looking sort of ecstatic. The pile is an interesting character that the people seem to be unsure of.
The works are made by combining pictures of landscapes on shaped panels with gestural drawings on the wall. The compositions balance four elements. There is a sculpture move like lean or cut, a landscape picture, a body reference and abstract ways used to understand spaces like buoys or flags. Each work balances these elements in different ways.
How does this exhibition relate to your previous body of work? While you have mainly worked in sculpture, the works in this show are two-dimensional with an element of installation; they come off of the picture’s surface into space. How did you arrive at these types of pieces from how you have worked before?CB
Painting on the wall allows me to incorporate the negative space on the wall in the same way an open sculpture lets me grab on to space in a room. In sculpture, that puts a viewer into the frame. I think in this case I’m drawing on the wall to get the landscape out of the frame.
I’ve also kept the four elements separate so I can move them around in the same way I’ve worked in sculpture. It’s similar to how an artist might move things around while they make a collage. The final composition has the feeling of something made of moveable parts.
Painting is a relatively recent development in your practice. How did this development arise, and what were the struggles and challenges along the way?CB
I have always been interested in painting but I’m too ham-fisted for it. I’m much better with a material I can push or punch or cut. I covet the phenomenological zap you can get from the colour relationships in paintings. If I can push or punch my way to painting, that would be something.
So far the strategy has been to paint on a lump because I feel comfortable with lumps or paint on architecture because I feel comfortable in a space. Working on a flat picture plane freaks me out.
What can you tell us about the use of natural imagery in some of the works to be shown in ‘That mountain is a good listener’?CB
I received as a gift, a family heirloom – my Grandmother’s landscape paintings. Hobbyist landscapes are the antithesis of contemporary art and this is my heritage. I’m compelled towards reconciliation.
Ten years ago I would have understood the appeal of making a conventional landscape as the pleasure of replicating a set of codes. Now I am more interested in the emotion of it, which seems to be something like, “Please do not disturb”.
People often turn to a craft or images to be left alone, unchallenged and placid. And although contemporary art attempts to incorporate all facets of everyday experience, this withdrawal seems particularly poisonous to contemporary art. Any move towards it becomes sarcastic or contemptuous because, if nothing else, contemporary art needs to be noticed and stake a claim for its existence.
After thinking about my Grandmother’s paintings, I’ve become interested in landscapes.
Can you expand on the exhibition’s title? To me, it suggests solitude, contemplation and reflection in nature.CB
On my walk to the studio, if I’m looking at the Two Sisters it’s a sign that I’m going to have a good day. It means I’m looking up and out instead of down and in. That mountain is there everyday, waiting for everyone to notice it.