Brown’s sculptures are highly compelling, elaborate masses built from precisely placed strokes of thick oil paint. In some of them, parts of the cold 19th century bronzes that he uses as supports are still visible under the gravity-defying impasto. While Brown started creating sculptures in 1993, it was with Monument to International Socialism in 2009 that he first started using antique bronze figures as support. The thick paint-slugs of eggplant, jade, buttery yellow and navy hide what seem to be a bronze horse or cow, suckling a miniature version of itself. Monument to International Socialism perfectly encapsulates the artist’s unique artistic vision, challenging not only the notion of what sculpture is, but the very laws of gravity and exploring new and undiscovered territory in art making. Contrary to the artist’s paintings, where he seems to strip the sitter of its skin and unveil the muscles that lie underneath, his sculptures do the exact opposite and pile on excessive layers of paint, adding a new painterly dimension to the found object. According to Brown “sculpture has to operate in its own right – it cannot be slavish to its source” (Glenn Brown in conversation with Karen Wright, The Independent, 3 September 2015, online).
Many of Brown’s works seem to materialise as if part of a dreamy meditation in which scale is disproportionate, gravity is upended, and reality is not as it seems. The artist notes that he sees “the sculptural brush marks as challenging the logic of paint in that they appear to defy gravity by actually staying upright. For me, they exist within a surreal world that is based on getting paint to do something it shouldn’t do, and to sit in a three-dimensional world that it shouldn’t be in. The vitrine allows the sculpture to exist within its own mummified world” (Glenn Brown in conversation with Rochelle Steiner, Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Glenn Brown, 2004, p. 99).
Mining art history and popular culture, Glenn Brown has created an artistic language that transcends time and pictorial conventions. In sophisticated compositions that fuse diverse histories - the Renaissance, Impressionism, Surrealism - Brown creates a space where the abstract and the visceral, the rational and irrational, the beautiful and grotesque, churn in a dizzying amalgamation of reference and form.
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