Glenn Brown at Upton House and Gardens

28 Nov

‘Greuze does not hide the fact that her watery eyes and soft lips are made of nothing but quickly-applied paint.’ Glenn Brown on Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Head of a Girl, c.1790, in the Bearsted Collection at Upton House and Gardens.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Head of a Girl, c.1790
Oil on panel (walnut)
Copyright National Trust Collections

An array of intriguing paintings by British artist Glenn Brown are currently gracing the walls of the 1930s Squash Court at Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire. Glenn Brown’s brilliantly colourful paintings draw upon the paintings of earlier artists. Art historical references abound, bringing an air of familiarity to Brown’s paintings that is made strange by other entirely unfamiliar elements.  

Glenn Brown, Searched Hard for You and Your Special Ways, 1995
Oil on canvas mounted on board
Copyright Glenn Brown

The originally fifteenth-century Upton House became the country home of Lord and Lady Bearsted in 1927. A subtle yet extensive transformation created the ideal space for extravagant weekend house parties. Lord Bearsted’s fabulous art collection, including paintings by Canaletto, El Greco, Constable, Holbein, and Gainsborough, is displayed throughout the luxurious rooms. As a member of the National Trust, Brown has been inspired by paintings he has seen at many National Trust places. For Brown, in being not quite what it may seem to be, the altered interior of Upton House is the perfect place for his work to be seen.

Glenn Brown, Anna Bolena, 2012
Oil on panel
Copyright Glenn Brown

In the making of his paintings, Glenn Brown works with printed images of other paintings that fascinate him, appropriating and transforming painted details in a variety of ways. Using fine brushes and thinned oil paint, Brown recreates the perfectly smooth and often glossy surfaces of the printed images rather than the distinctive painterly textures of the original works. The seemingly swift large brushstrokes and areas of apparently thick impasto paint seen in Brown’s paintings at a distance are revealed to be illusory and insubstantial, suspended within a flat translucent glaze. Brown’s painted imagery is depicted in colours that may be appropriated from elements of other paintings seen elsewhere. The forms, which may be both sugary sweet and nightmarish, exist simultaneously within the finely applied oil paint and the depicted dreamlike space.

Glenn Brown, Nazareth, 2012
Oil paint on acrylic and bronze
Copyright Glenn Brown

Brown’s recent sculptures are each formed by an accumulation of individual oil paint colours squeezed directly from the tube and left to solidify in a colourful heap. Supporting each wild mass of raw paint is an almost completely engulfed, possibly nineteenth-century bronze figurine. Brown’s oil paint sculptures seem to have emerged from the space depicted within and suggested by his paintings. The sculptures are Brown’s painted forms made tangible, without the intervention of a paintbrush.  In Brown’s sculptures, the paint is opaque and impasto, and the unmixed colours are especially vivid. From jewel-like translucence to opaque solidity, Glenn Brown’s paintings and sculpture celebrate both the illusory possibilities and the inherent materiality of oil paint.

Glenn Brown, Fellini, 2012
Oil paint on acrylic and bronze
Copyright Glenn Brown

 Glenn Brown at Upton House and Gardens has been produced in a partnership between the National Trust and Meadow Arts, and continues until 6 January 2013.

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