Daryl Brown: My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat

Walking into Daryl Brown’s new studio was like following the walls of a labyrinth until finally stepping into a room alive with organic structures that watched over the artist like protective sentinels.

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"room alive with organic structures that watched over the artist like protective sentinels.

My observation caused a chuckle from the sculptor.  “They’re almost like a gang,” he responded.  “A bit threatening.”

It had been over a year since I’d first visited Brown in his studio back in Hackney.  On that day in August, he seemed gentle and unassuming.

Yet in his new studio in Stratford, Brown appeared to have taken on a new confidence.  His movements were relaxed as he circled his works talking about the process of their creation.

Pointing to one he remarked, “This one is unfinished.  It’s really tricky.  I’ve always felt quite weird about it.  I’m often tempted to destroy things, rebel against them.”

My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat

Brown’s sculptures are part of a theme that has been a reoccurring vision of the artist.  The first sculpture of the series ‘My Mother and My Now Dead Cat’ was shown in The Magnificent Basement by ALISN, an organisation known for it’s inclusive support of artists in London.

Using a variety of materials, Brown has stayed true to his vision never wavering from the original theme, yet evolving this vision into the sentinels that stand in his studio today.

Upon looking at the sculptures, does the image of Brown’s mother holding his cat become apparent?  Each observer must decide that for themselves.

But what is immediately noticeable is the organic quality of the sculptures.  They each embody a life; an ironic factor since the

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"

theme touches on death.

Binary Opposites

Whether or not the irony in Brown’s work is a conscious act on his part is something else the observer can determine.

For example, one can hardly think of the theme of the sculptures without noticing an element of both tragedy and comedy.

Brown himself describes his work as “gritty and urban”, yet the theme suggests something sentimental and sweet.

Together, the sculptures stand as ‘a gang’ and yet the artist who created them is soft spoken and non-threatening.

“I wanted to show a loving embrace and then destroy that,” says Brown.

Method

Brown’s method is as abstract as the sculptures themselves.

He seems to add components using a variety of materials.  Each sculpture can standalone because each is uniquely formed.

Some of them embody what could be viewed as chaos, perhaps an element of the death theme, with wires that give the sculpture a

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"

more technical appearance.

Others are softer and white, like amorphous bodies.

And still there is a darker figure and even a colourful body that appears to have human organs, which supports the idea of life.

Yet, one cannot escape the fact that these are sculptures, no more alive than the materials that form them, the now proverbial ‘dead cat’.

This it what makes Brown such an interesting artist, the opposing views that are conveyed in his work.

Like his previous Judo series, the artist is interested in the human form, but also in the progression of his work.

“I don’t want to lose this image of my mother with the cat, but I am not bound by it.”

Brown’s work has caught the attention of several art organisations, including the London Art Fair 2012, which will take place from 18-22 January next year.

The artist’s work will also be exhibited at the Residence Gallery in Hackney from 2 February 2012.

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ALISN at the Sluice Art Fair

Last weekend, the Sluice Art Fair exhibited works from different organisations, including ALISN –

Bad Seed I by Michael Petry

who, in the past, has consistently supported artists with many wide-ranging perspectives. 

Rather than fit art in neat little categories, ALISN– run by artists Iavor Lubomirov and Jordan Dalladay-Simpson  – have confirmed a more abstract and eclectic vision.

ALISN’s part in the Sluice Art Fair evidenced once again a mix of genre by exhibiting artists, who are unafraid to mix the abstract with something tangible and solid.  These artists have successfully combined strong ideals with mixed media, vulnerability with strength, which ultimately results in a lesson of contrasts.

The work by Michael Petry, an artist in residence at the Soane Museum, is entitled Bad Seed 1.  Much can be derived from its’ name, but even more from observing the contours and shape of the piece.

A result of glassblowing, the object is amorphous and almost translucent.  It seemingly hangs off of the edge of a black leather bench chair as if disturbing a room that would otherwise be traditionally ideal.  The glass object does not interfere with the aesthetic quality of the bench, but simply disturbs the atmosphere.

The Fold; Collapsibles, and Their Reductive Space by William Angus-Hughes

Still, what is most appealing about Petry’s work is the organic quality.

Like the melting objects in Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, Petry’s object seems to be doing something.  Its’ shape is determined by the bench it is leaning upon.  Its’ whitish, cloudy colour speaks loudly of something ectoplasmic, something that has a life within.

In looking at the work of Dahlia Westmoreland, there’s no doubt that the artist understands the aspects of Expressionism.

The meaning that is conveyed in her moleskin sketchbook entitled August, evokes emotion and contemplation.

Westmoreland’s use of texture is also interesting; along with the written words around the painted or drawn figures and objects, they remind viewers that the creation of artistic works depends greatly upon the artist’s thought process.

Marq Kearey used gouache, paper and board to create Painting in the Shape of Poland, a piece that seems to have

Painting in the Shape Of Poland by Marq Kearey

multiple meanings.  There are two holes cut out of the board, one of them where the city of Warsaw would be.  The connotations are undoubtedly political, however, viewers are also compelled to notice some of the simple messages of Kearey’s piece.

The missing hole causes the piece to resemble an artist’s palette; therefore, the meaning, after all, is that the work is both art as well as a tool that the artist is using to convey a message.

If the works of Mark Rothko’s late period has taught the art world anything, it is the power and meaning that can be conveyed through windows.  This aspect of art is reiterated in The Fold; Collapsibles, and Their Reductive Space by William Angus-Hughes.

Using window and picture frames attached by hinges, Angus-Hughes creates perceived new spaces.  Yet, the structure takes up physical space of varying degrees depending on the angle in which each part is folded.

Blind by Bella Easton

Bella Easton’s Blind has a surreal quality that proves to be both separate and whole in the continuing geometry of squared patterns.  Copper plated etchings printed on graphite and paper, “Blind” depicts a seemingly gothic design.

Yet, there is also beauty and tranquility in the light that surrounds the darkness.  While the spiny design that resembles the branches of a tree speaks of knowledge and eternity, the smaller details suggest everyday life.

Further works in the ALISN portion of the exhibition were equally compelling, featuring artists Matt Blackler,  Brian Hodgson,  John Gibbons,  Mandy Hudson and Denise Hickey.

For more information about the Sluice Art Fair, visit www.sluiceartfair.com

Bella Easton’s Dog Kennel Hill

Once you walked in the door, you couldn’t miss it.

Bella Easton's "Dog Kennel Hill" from inside the installation

This may have been ALISN’s largest exhibited work yet.

Taking up a great deal of space, Bella Easton’s “Dog Kennel Hill” seemed a magical portal to the unknown.

What was interesting about the main piece featured in ALISN’s latest exhibition was it could not be pinned down.  Engaging and vocal, the work invited the audience to interpret the message that was being conveyed from multiple perspectives.

Dog Kennel Hill

The installation inspired a great deal of conversation.

Having what could be seen as Matisse-like influences, a closer look revealed a montage of tiny pieces of dark paper, hand-coloured to produce an almost stained glass window effect.

At times, the colours met together in a corner of the piece to produce strange, dark faces peering back; and at other times, a city of lights, shimmering water or talking mouths.

Easton’s piece was tactile, and the crowd could not help but climb inside of it’s house-like structure.

There was a spiritual nature to the work, acting as the safety and shelter of a church.

The lighting only added to the feeling of warmth and worship, reflecting the various colours.

A connection with nature

Yet, Dog Kennel Hill still suggests a connection with nature, as the separated pieces do not keep those within the

Bella Easton's "Dog Kennel Hill" - The inner ceiling of the installation

roofed side of the work completely indoors.  This is enhanced by the feeling of shimmering sunlight on the walled piece.

The strength of Easton’s work is that it gathers together different techniques and images that in essence, produce a solid effect, a solid structure.  And Easton seems to have done this in such a way that the final outcome appears serendipitous rather than intensional.

One is seduced into giving much thought to the piece, long after walking away from it.

Easton’s work, ultimately, does what great art is meant to do: challenge the artist’s range of capability and engender a variety of perspectives and discussion.

If Dog Kennel Hill is any indication of Easton’s talent and ability, audiences should expect other great works from her in the future.

For more information about the artist and her work, go to www.bellaeaston.co.uk

Off the Clock: From Assistant to Artist

Saturday night, ALISN – an artist-led organisation – presented ‘Off the Clock’, an exhibition featuring artists, who have assisted other well-known artists.

An upclose shot of "Quercus Condido Pt. I-III" by Matt Blackler

The works in ‘Off the Clock’ included paintings, illustrations and sculptures.

Yet, the main focus of the exhibition seemed to be the artist’s assistant, a role typically obscured by the fame of the main artist.

‘Off the Clock’ takes notice of the lack of recognition of artist’s assistants.  In fact, it is done rather well – in part – by a display of emails framed in wood, of responses from major artists.

ALISN reached out to artists whose former or current assistants were asked to exhibit works in ‘Off the Clock’.

Some of the emails actually praised the assistant.  There was, for example, a direct quote from Sir Anthony Caro lauding Gary Doherty for his ten years of assistance.

Other artists, however, responded via employees of the gallery or organisation in which they worked.

The Exhibition

Many of the pieces in ‘Off the Clock’ relayed a common theme of desolation.

Benjamin Deakin, who assists winner of the 2002 Turner Prize, Keith Tyson, created an illustration of a jagged hole in the ground.

By looking closely, one can just see the faded stencilled words that read ‘DEAD ARTIST’.  The drawing depicts an open grave, and ghostly figures seem to dance in and out of the detailed illustration.

A section of "FP 12:16" by Gary Doherty

Gary Doherty’s large drawing depicts a loan woman looking over a city that she seems very much disconnected from.

However, the second image of her in the illustration that appears at the end of a tunnel-like hole indicates that she is somehow watching herself rather than the city.

Reuben Negron’s painting was of a half naked woman alone in a room.  His use of watercolours and gouache were interesting, giving the painting a graphic novel feel.  The images come to life, creating a certain measure of intensity within the loan figure as she pleases herself in bed.

Yet, perhaps the most obvious feeling of desolation was the painting by Allison Edge, who assisted artist Jeff Koons.

Part of her Magic Forest series, Camp Thunderbird, oil on canvas, depicted a campground scene with several tire swings hanging off of a rope.

"Camp Thunderbird" by Allison Edge

Edge’s painting has a magical and eerie feeling, and one is compelled to ask why no children or people inhabit it at all.

Yet, the pieces, which depicted certain ghostly characteristics, were offset by some equally interesting sculptures.

Daryl Brown’s Mother and Cat was a sort of Escher-esque sculpture of wood.

With Brown’s recent Judo Series in mind, it is interesting to see how the artist continues to play with gravity.

The sculpture, though seemingly heavy on the top is held up by a single metal pedestal, which disappears into the bottom of the piece.

Brown has assisted artist Gereon Krebber, who won the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2003.

Another sculpture, which evokes discussion, is Alison Gill’s Stray Object. A model of a tiny brown bird with a broken wing is in the centre of a large cube.

At first, one may think of a bird within a cage, except that the large box-like cube has holes carved in varying sizes, allowing the bird to escape once he is mended.

One side of "Stray Object" by Alison Gill

Gill’s approach asks viewers to contemplate the bird’s circumstance and the bird’s fate.

Gill has assisted YBA member Gavin Turk, who, in a strange turn of events, will assist her on a sculpture in one of the upcoming exhibitions.

Matt Blackler’s work with wood seems to speak loudly of nature.  The round wooden pieces, at first look, seem like slices of a tree – something a lumberjack would produce.

A closer look reveals that the wood has been manipulated in such a way that perhaps alludes to one of its former states.

Blackler, who assists Gordon Cheung, often works with wood, creating sculptures that require a great deal of physical work.

Other artists whose work will be shown in ‘Off the Clock’ are Rachel Beach who has assisted Roxy Paine, Jason Bryant who has assisted Kehinde Wiley, Sy Hackney who has assisted Eamon Everall and Jenny Morgan who has assisted Marilyn Minter.

The ‘Off the Clock’ series, sponsored also by Like the Spice, will continue in both London and New York as follows:

9 to 17 October, The Magnificent Basement Gallery, 128 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AP

14 October to 14 November, 92Y Tribeca Art Gallery, 200 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

4 November to 6 December, Like The Spice Gallery, 224 Roebling Street. Brooklyn, NY 11211

4 to 17 November, Mile End Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, Grove Road, London, E3 4QY

Daryl Brown: Portrait of an artist

The smell of wood was unmistakeable.

'The Judo Series' - No. 3

The space was filled with bits and bobs, an old table, a repaired wooden chair, a u-shaped tangle of wires suspended from the ceiling, orange-handled saws hanging from the wall and clean make-shift white pillars that displayed tiny spherical sculptures in orange and brown.

In many ways, it seemed perhaps the average work space for any young artist.  But it also had character – the mark of one particular sculptor.

Like the artist who works within, this studio is – in part – tucked away and not easy to find, but expressive and creative, a treasure on the east side of Hackney.

Daryl Brown is the quietest figure in the room.  His knick knacks all speak loudly, but his voice is gentle and unassuming.  He talks about his work with a sort of understated humility.

I explain to him what I’m working on and he responds with a series of sympathetic head nods letting me know that he is willing to join the  myriad of hard-working and passionate young artists I’m writing about.

The Judo Series

He describes the motivation for his recent works, the Judo Series.  The pieces are inspired by a book on Judo – an ancient martial art.  And like the figures that move within its pages, Brown’s pieces are organic, flexible, creative forms.

At his exhibition in the Magnificent Basement, the pieces sat under light, which highlighted the taut muscular bend of the wood as it seemingly defied gravity.   The light bounced off of the reflective surface of the slick blackness of his cradled figure.

Inanimate or not, there’s something human in each of them.  Brown’s pieces breathe as if they were alive.

And in and around the sometimes austere display, the artist was as undisturbed then as he was sitting before me in his studio.  I wondered not for the first time if, ironically, he was recreated by his pieces.  Had his work somehow defined him even as he left them behind to explore a new idea?

His experiences as an artist in London derive much from his encounters as a student.

'The Judo Series' - No. 6

“I did feel like I was a bit in a wilderness,” he said about leaving art school.  “I was wondering around a bit, not really sure what to do, convinced that I couldn’t afford a studio.”

But his desperation caused him to go back to the University of East London, where he received his degree, to use the space in order to continue creating.

After being independently approached from students at university, he was asked to be a part of a show.

When Brown likened his experience during that time, working with another artist, as an apprenticeship – it was no surprise.  Brown’s whole demeanour speaks of modesty.

ALISN

He lauded ALISN – an artist led initiative – for the consistent support they’ve given him, especially in regards to his exhibition at the Magnificent Basement, which they sponsored.

“I was very much championed by ALISN,” he said, warmly.

He contemplated for a moment when I asked him about the artists who inspire him.  Surrounded by sculptures, I didn’t expect him to mention painting – but he revealed a soft spot for the art in his slight smile. A big fan of Francis Bacon, his modesty again showed no bounds.

“I was doing my GCSE’s when I did a painting, which didn’t look like one of Bacon’s – let me make that clear.  But I like his work.  I look at paintings quite a lot.  I like Caravaggio.  I also like the sculptor Phyllida Barlow who’s bold style has played a big part in my work lately.”

'The Judo Series' - No. 7

Yet, despite his unassuming nature, Brown has very strong feelings about the type of artist he wants to be.  Working as a technician at Havering College and paying £110 a month for studio space, he isn’t always certain about the future or even about his own evolution as an artist.

“Ideally, I’d like to believe it’s about getting the work to a certain standard.  But that’s probably a very idealistic point a view.  I still feel I have a long way to go, but I’ll probably always feel that way.”

Brown says this with a smirk, as if he’s just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  It becomes clear that despite the hardships, he finds creating art worth every minute.

Some of Brown’s current work will be exhibited this coming Saturday, 9th October at the Magnificent Basement in London from 7:30pm.

ALISN: A resource for young artists

No one expects to leave university with an art degree and immediately land a place in a major gallery.

Anna Bleeker, Jordan Dalladay-Simpson & Iavor Lubomirov

In London, one of the most art-focused cities in the world, there are far more artists than opportunities.

Yet, through a combination of open-mindedness and insight, two artists were motivated to look outside of the art world for a little help.

Iavor Lubomirov and Jordan Dalladay-Simpson, frustrated with the political framework that had become a consistent part of the art world, began knocking on the doors of property developers.

“When you live in a difficult world, it’s easy to forget how much joy it can give a property developer to join in the journey,” said Dalladay-Simpson.  “In a way, a property developer is an artist too.”

ALISN was born

Their persistence paid off and ALISN inevitably was born.  ALISN, which stands for Artist-Led Initiatives Support Network, is an organisation, which focuses on arranging

Iavor Lubomirov's work with paper

exhibitions for students and recent graduates of art school.

This collaborative effort is non-profit and encourages a sense of community by focusing on the art and the artist.

“For us,” said Anna Bleeker, one of ALISN’s coordinators, “art is about getting together with friends.”

This is achieved mainly through the donating of a space by the owner of a property after and, even sometimes during, a refurbishment.

Lubomirov, who believes that there simply aren’t enough people creating opportunities outside of the art world, sees these donations and collaborative efforts as an essential part of the process.

“How do you continue as an artist and keep Bohemian principles?  There are many collectives around London, squat spaces, cafe’s… Exhibiting art does not necessarily mean being in a gallery.”

Stephanie Batiste's 'Light Fitting + Bulb'

An exhibition of paper

One of ALISN’s most recent efforts, was on 26 June, which showed the works of Stephanie Batiste and Lubomirov himself.

Lubomirov, working solely with paper, combined his knowledge of Mathematics with creative vision.  The precise detail in his works gives an added dimension and depth. The way the flat sheets are combined, forces the viewer to consider volume.

Stephanie Batiste's 'Radio + Plug Socket'

Batiste’s works are equally compelling.  Her three-dimensional models are so accurate that one of the visitors of the exhibition couldn’t understand why the light hanging from the ceiling wasn’t turned on, until someone explained to him that it was made entirely out of paper cards.

The exhibition was a testimony to the level of creativity and talent that exists amongst young artists in London.

This joint intellectual effort continues in upcoming exhibitions like Daryl Brown’s ‘The Judo Series’ at The Magnificent Basement located at 128 Farringdon Road on 24th July from 7:00pm to 9:30pm.

If you are an artist or someone interested in art and wish to meet other art enthusiasts, ALISN urges you to get in touch by visiting http://www.alisn.org