Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sarah Brenneman


Oily Bricks, 2001, ink and watercolor on paper, 14 1/2" x 14 1/2"

Sarah Brenneman is currently in This is Not About Landscape at Jeff Bailey Gallery, along with Louise Belcourt and Mie Yim. You can also check her website for more. See the interview below...

JL: Oily Bricks seem to present the viewer with dichotomy and contrast. Of course, there is the oil and the bricks, but there is also this play between abstraction and representation. I wonder if there was a conceptual intention here, to present the two together in conflict of sorts?

SB: At the time Oily Bricks was made, the work was very intuitive. I was playing with the fluidity of the paint. My obsession with patterning had already begun and I realized that bricks were a wonderful pattern that people recognize and equate with the world around them, especially as city dwellers. Bricks also appear later in Brooklyn Nature Fix and in a more recent painting, Spring Tree, in a more three dimensional way. I don't think I was consciously playing with abstraction and representation. That intention came later and was realized after taking a long look at my paintings and thinking about what I was trying to achieve in the work.


Brooklyn Nature Fix, 2003, watercolor and ink on paper, 36" x 46"


JL: As is hinted at in the title for the show, This Is Not About Landscape, this play seems to be one of the common strains in you work. How has this type of play manifested itself in your work throughout the years? It is important for you to blur the line between the two camps? Do you believe that they exist in the first place?

SB: The contrast between abstraction and representation in my work became more deliberate starting with the paintings I made while at the Millay Colony in 2003. There I was surrounded by nature and the urge to paint it was very strong. Before that I was almost exclusively an abstract painter. At Millay I began to combine the abstract patterning and landscape imagery. It is important for me to blur the line. I most enjoy the sort of middle. I find that there is much to be explored there, especially when representational imagery can become more loose and strange.

JL: In Brooklyn Nature Fix you are telling the viewer what seems to be a very personal thing: that you are getting/attempting to achieve a "nature fix" through the making of the work. In a similar vein, the press release states that the works in the show "evoke a range of phenomenon and emotion"…I'm curious to what degree making your work is a therapeutic or revelatory activity? What else may be going on?

SB: Brooklyn Nature Fix was painted at a time when I was living in a very ugly apartment in a dirty neighborhood filled with concrete. I found a bit of comfort in some weed trees in a vacant lot near my apartment. This painting is really a recording of that moment. In making that painting, I realized that I could have my fix, taken in a fleeting moment walking past weed trees, and put it in a painting to look at whenever I want. This started a whole slew of tree/plant paintings that I am still making. These works do reveal to me the importance of spending time in nature to my well being. Part of the pleasure in making the work is painting what I love, which is for me therapeutic.


Up it Sprang, 2007, watercolor and pencil on paper, 30" x 22"

JL: Up it Sprang is nice because you seem to be referencing nature, but it's hard to identify exactly what you're seeing. There is a sophistication and care in the marks that mixes with an almost diagrammatic deliberateness. How did this work come about? Are you actually using visual materials here or is completely intuitive?

SB: That painting is all from my head. Meaning I wasn't referencing anything that I have seen in the world around me, which is sometimes the case. I was obsessed with rocks at the time. An obsession that started with a series of rock collages I began at Skowhegan many moons ago in 2000. I began Up It Sprang with the rock shapes that look sort of like eggs too. Next came the triangles on top of them. There are a lot of these sort of crystal like triangle forms in my paintings. The lines in the middle were a way to sort of create a pull in the void of the middle. The dark bottom grounded the shapes and gave it more of a landscape feel.


Crystalline, 2008, watercolor, colored pencil, and collage on paper, 51" x 44"
Drunk and Potted, 2008, watercolor and collage on paper, 30" x 22"

L: There is a certain amount of technical facility that seems to have evolved from Oily Bricks to Drunk and Potted. Is this as a result of you're consistently working on paper?

SB: Well, there are seven years and many many paintings in between Oily Bricks and Drunk and Potted. I work mostly in watercolor and over the years have figured out how to manipulate and control the paint in new ways. Also, Drunk and Potted has the added element of collage that I have been working with for a couple years now. This adds a crispness and a difference in surface that adds to the richness of the work. Also the earlier paintings are just more simple. At the time I was quite content to just paint a few triangles on a small sheet of notebook paper. I have boxes of those.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting Sarah's new work! I am a proud owner of a new Sarah B. called "Bud".

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  2. Sue HavensJuly 25, 2008

    Bold Gold= Sarah Brenneman

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