Glenn Brown
14 May 2016 to 11 September 2016
Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles

Among contemporary British artists, Glenn Brown is one of the most unusual and most unique. Yet the last retrospective of his oeuvre in France dates back to 2000. Largely unknown to the French public, Glenn Brown’s art presents us with the suggestive force of his translations of reproductions of works by earlier masters, his “atomization” of painting, and the inexhaustible inventiveness of his practice, which appropriates the styles and outlines of drawings and classical paintings. Brown’s interpretative, innovative hand brings to life an ensemble of marks and sinuous lines that interweave and echo each other on the surface of an artwork. Emanating from his works – whether drawings or paintings – is a plural, blurred and fluid reality, whose visual ambiguity evokes that peculiar to our own “postdigital” epoch.

The drawings Glenn Brown has been pursuing since 2013, as an autonomous means of artistic expression, maintain a thematic and visceral relationship with his paintings as well as with his sculptures. The majority of the sculptures on show here have been produced specially for the exhibition at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles. Glenn Brown’s activities in three media – painting, sculpture and drawing – are thus seen side by side for the first time in France in the context of a major exhibition.

As in the exhibition Van Gogh in Provence: Modernizing Tradition, the genres that Glenn Brown treats in his oeuvre belong to a western visual tradition. The portrait and the still life reflect the conventions of different styles and epochs – German Realism, mannerism, the Baroque and modernism – which the artist invokes via his paintings and drawings. The European painters of the past provide him with a set of references that he acknowledges as the starting points for his own interpretations. Glenn Brown thereby distances himself from the original, which he atomizes and renders more complex.

In his sculptures The Hokey Cokey and The Flowers of Arles, both created for this exhibition, Glenn Brown respectively takes Vincent van Gogh’s portrait of the Arles postman and his Field with Irises near Arles (1888) as his point of departure. Basing himself on colour reproductions of Van Gogh’s originals, he has “overpainted” bronze busts, masking them beneath thick layers of paint in a medley of hues. This profusion of tactile matter dialogues with the flat canvases, which likewise give the impression of an interplay of textures and feverish visual masses.

Curator of the exhibition: Bice Curiger

About the artist

Born in 1966 in Hexham (Northumberland), in the northeast of England, Glenn Brown lives and works chiefly in London. In 1989 he took part in the touring exhibition New Contemporaries, dedicated to emerging young artists working in Britain. Three years later, he completed his MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College (London).

Since the start of his career, Glenn Brown’s art has been based on innovative methods of appropriating and reconfiguring works belonging mainly to the past. In his first solo show in France, for example, held in 2000 at the Centre d’art contemporain at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Bignan, the artist presented paintings imprinted with multiple references to the works of Salvador Dalí, the existentialist portraits of the British artist Frank Auerbach, and illustrations issuing from the universe of science fiction. He also showed sculptures that already corresponded to his works in two-dimensions with their smooth surfaces and deceptive looks.

Thanks to his perfect mastery of the trompe-l’œil technique, Glenn Brown succeeds in infusing his pictures with the illusion of depth. His use of a slightly garish palette, combined with a proliferation of marks and lines of all kinds, confers upon his works an expressive, reinvented classicism, a subjective mannerism, which continues right up to the present.

His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions with evocative titles both in Britain and abroad, signalling his role in the renewal of contemporary painting: a painting that looks at the history of western art in order to “digest” and “transform” its given styles, and subsequently to produce a psychological landscape and an idiosyncratic universe.

More information:

Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles
Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles
Suffer Well” -  The V-A-C Collection, Moscow Photo: Robert McKeever
Suffer Well” – The V-A-C Collection, Moscow Photo: Robert McKeever
Glenn Brown, The Hockey Cokey, 2016  Courtesty: Gagosian Gallery. Photo : Mike Bruce
Glenn Brown, The Hockey Cokey, 2016
Courtesty: Gagosian Gallery. Photo : Mike Bruce
Glenn Brown - Suffer Well exhibtion
Glenn Brown – Suffer Well exhibtion poster