Brian’s Show – “Missing”

Lungley Gallery – 1st Nov 2018 “Missing”

As a painter that likes to focus on the presentation or hanging of work, Brian’s exhibition took me by surprise.

I had a instant reaction to the mode of hanging and how it fit in the space itself. First walking down some very narrow steps into what felt like a cellar, then entering this almost confining rectangular room with a low ceiling made the experience heightened in a way, making me as a viewer very aware of every detail of the space, something that is sometimes lost in large galleries. I immediately felt that my gaze was no longer in my control or even mine when it encountered the covered walls. From the image above you can see that the walls are covered from top to floor with A4 sized different pieces of paper with water colour painted figures. As soon as the room started to fill up with other people from my course I immediately started to look at them looking onto the figures, seeing a unexplainable connection between the bodies standing in front of me to the bodies/figures in the paper. The singular lightbulb above created a numerous amount of shadows making it at times harder to see the figures but also enhanced them in a way of using my imagination or in a sort of re-imaganing.

After looking around we went back upstairs as a group to discuss on the exhibition and the work. I took interest in the fact that Brian was working with Mark and that there was a sense of group decisions throughout the exhibition process, knowing this made me realise that the work was approachable by other people than just the artist. The price of the artwork was also a factor of approachability, selling for £50 a piece makes it possible for a larger majority of people being able to buy artwork. I think that this also connotes to Brian stating that he felt that the figures where almost rejecting his gaze, therefore maybe even the ownership of being the author, that these figures were maybe not made to be owned by just one person.

In consideration to the individual pieces, many observed on the use of the watercolour and the size of the paper, connoting to the starter pack of art making. Watercolour being one of this first tools of painting and the A4 size piece of paper made it approachable to any person that entered the room as being a common size, however what turned this around was the figures. They had a presence in the paper (not on) which I thought was then hard to classify them to a certain technique or area of painting, as they are flat but there seems to be neither a background or a foreground, that they are hovering on the page, no sense of time or even reality, past or present. It felt that they almost did not belong on the paper nor want to be there. I was very much locked in the discussion at this point where others were saying similar points to what I was thinking but from a different perspective, very much watching Brian to see his initial reaction to peoples comments or analysis of his work.

Even though I may be a abstract painter, in part I really saw this body of work having some relations to mine, or more that I do not feel that it is irrelevant, partly because of the way Brian has used the medium of watercolour and has somehow the medium is the message, however, there is so much more than these figures being just watercolour. The way he has used the medium and blurred the lines of the traditional use, that he let the figures paint themselves and that somehow this led to a blurred the lines of the ownership. He didn’t feel like he had control over them, in relation to the gaze and the power of the gaze itself. I think I most related to the method of the hanging, as I believe it to show a sense of spontaneity in a medium that would seem to not traditionally have much lenience. Something I want to evoke in my work, to change the classic perception of painting by hanging it in a nonchalant manner, paying homage to the medium, but changing its nature.

Manon Steyaert