Indepth Arts News: |
"Stephen Brandes: Ways of Escape"
2004-05-08 until 2004-06-16
Temple Bar Gallery and Studios
In 1999, Stephen Brandes went on a journey through Europe, following the route taken by his grandmother in 1913 as she escaped the pogroms in her native Romania. Brandes documented his journey in a visual diary which contained over three hundred drawings. The manner in which he did so has had a profound influence on the form and content of his subsequent work. Though these drawings in one way recorded the artist’s observations and experiences as he retraced his grandmother’s steps, they also allowed for a more open-ended process of imaginative association.
In Brandes’ current work fragments of historical fact exist alongside elaborate visual fictions. As he has said, "though many of the motifs still allude to the landscape and historical events of Central and Eastern Europe, the work itself is becoming more independent as a fiction." Brandes is interested in the visual cultivation of ideas and in his work vignettes and narratives are formed as a result of playful free association between disparate motifs. This process is, he suggests, "a way of dealing with the family history, that sense of un-groundedness and otherness, without becoming purely self-referential or sentimental".
Throughout his work, this resistance to sentimentality is evident in his consistent employment of a pictorial language associated with children's illustration, American underground comics and 1960’s Czechoslovakian animation. The effect of this ‘cartoon' style is to give his work "an accessibility and a surface innocence that can be undermined". In pieces which range from small loosely executed paintings to intricate drawings made directly onto larger surfaces and with inventive use of unlikely materials (such as second-hand floor vinyl), Brandes shows a self-denigrating and darkly humorous approach to the consideration of history. These are, as he has said, "profound understatements" made with "the full awareness that one possibly will not be heard".
Stephen Brandes was born in Wolverhampton, UK in 1966 and now lives in Cork. He has received a BA from the Bath Academy of Art and an MA from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. In recent years his work has featured in several group shows in Ireland including: Eurojet Futures, RHA Gallery (Dublin, 2002); Permaculture, Project (Dublin, 2003); and Necessary Journeys, TBG&S, 2003. He has worked as a curator of independent art projects, most notably Superbia (Dublin, 2003), an exhibition situated in a semi-detached house in Ballymun, Dublin.