Sunday, 11 April 2010

Trevor Brown, painter (II)

"Humpty" by Trevor Brown

Following the opening of Trevor Brown’s "Alice" show at the Bunkamura Gallery, I visited the exhibition on Friday 2nd of April, 2010 and met the artist. Later I interviewed him by email (apparently his preferred means of communication) for Culturekiosque, an on-line, US-based culture "magazine."

CBL: Was Alice as rich a seam to mine as you expected? Have you exhausted that seam or do you think you will return to it in future?

TB: From the start I set a target of thirty paintings – I used a few old works which sorta fit the theme to meet my secondary target of completing it by the end of 2009 - but, yes, I think I could in fact have carried on a bit longer – boredom hadn't set in – and the stories are so rich with imagery and ideas to draw from.

CBL: Alice is a cultural area that's very mapped out and iconographically established. Did you feel a constant pressure (a) to veer towards and/or (b) to veer away from the pre-existing imagery? If so, which works display these tendencies the most? Plus, do you think you did a better job dealing with these pressures than Tim Burton (cue to rant on about Burton's long-toothed Alice)?

TB: Haha! - as I said, I really hate the fact Tim Burton used a woman to play Alice then, in my cynical view, realising no one would believe she was a ten year old girl, concocted a story about Alice returning to Wonderland ten years later (or whatever) – and of course it was always going to be a "Johnny Depp in Wonderland" film and highly commercial Disney fodder - despite that, I still look forward to seeing it, his (tripped out) visual sense is always very good, even if he is selling out. For my Alice of course I felt no onus of any kind - I did what I felt like doing – the first painting most faithful to the traditional iconography - I suppose I did feel an obligation to do the Mad Hatter's tea party and, perhaps inevitably, I'm a bit unhappy with that painting because I was pandering too much – not Trevor Brown enough! - "Dumpty" and "Impotent" are a couple of my favourites - they take ideas from Alice but have become totally Trevor Brown.

CBL: I noticed some of the works had a "frozen splash" – the paint in "Red Painted Rose," the green tea in "Green Tea Part," the blood in "Chapter 13"... This kind of reminded me of Takashi Murakami's works "Lonesome Cowboy" and "Hiropon." Is this just one of those random subjective (on my part) coincidences or is there something in it?

TB: Probably was inspired by/ pinched from Takashi Murakami actually. I used eyeball flowers as another reoccurring motif in Alice – eyeball butterflies, an eyeball tree for "Cosmic Kitty" etc. - and lots of mushrooms - I should have done an eyeball mushroom as a more knowing reference to Murakami.

CBL: What do the numbers in "Cosmic Kitty" refer to?

TB: Just put in so people would ask what the numbers mean and I can say "fucked if I know!" - (the guy who bought the painting on Saturday asked too) - 9 and 4 are unlucky numbers in Japan and 6 is my wife's favourite number – they spell out ku-ro-shi, meaning suffocation – but I dunno! – they probably did have a highly significant meaning when I was doing the painting but I've now forgotten...!

CBL: As you said in a previous interview, you said you like to create ambiguity. Which piece are you most satisfied with in this regard?

TB: Perhaps "Humpty" – kinda innocuous and cute looking – the gallery evidently thought it was inoffensive enough to use for the post card – but it's one of the more perverse images in the book with the grotesque lecherous Humpty leering at Alice, with the hint of a bulge down his trousers.

CBL: You said "Which Dreamed It?" was your personal favourite [when I met Brown earlier at the gallery]. Why?

TB: She's cutest – and the colours (reproduced awfully in the book) and simple composition.

CBL: What is the most interesting feedback or reactions you have received so far?

TB: I related the story of a pair of little girls viewing my exhibition on my blog – I suspect that's going to remain the most memorable for me.

spent a few hours at the gallery prior to camera shopping (so still no exhibition photos just yet) - no squealing tb-obsessed girls today and (so) not so much excitement - except for the entrance of a few little girls (9 or 10 year olds) accompanied by their mothers - obviously oblivious to the dangers of trevor brown art and sucked in by the cute humpty dumpty poster outside? - in particular there’s one painting of alice gingerly (sleep?)walking on a landscape of erect penises (titled "malice in wonderland") - i thoughtfully placed it toward the far end of the gallery, with some of the other more "adult" images, so that anyone who had wandered into the gallery "by mistake" would have had time to leave - but the first pair of little girls who arrived were racing far ahead of their mothers viewing the paintings and dolls - and they stopped at the one painting before "malice in wonderland" - which was "dumpty" and in which they appeared to take an especial surreptitious delight in, pointing to dumpty's face and giggling - i was anxious to see how they’d react to the next painting - but, as their parents caught up with them, they walked straight past it with no discernible reaction …from either the girls or their mothers!

CBL: Which is your favourite Tweedle?

TB: My Tweedles? - I can't choose - I was thinking of them as a pair of irritating little brats.

1 comment:

AkaTako said...

Aw, Trevor Brown. I love you! His new Alice book is really great. I loved looking through the books and discovering each painting as I turned the pages. I wish I could have gone to the exhibition.

Thank you for the interview and pictures!