Glenn Brown’s (b. 1966) practice is one in which concerns of a technical, aesthetic and spiritual nature are explored through an eclectic mix of influences. Spanning painting, drawing and sculpture, the artist reflects upon the history of art without confining himself to a specific period. The sources for his works can be found in the works of Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Adolph von Menzel, Surrealists – especially Salvador Dalí – or artists including Karel Appel, Frank Auerbach and Georg Baselitz, as well as sci-fi painters such as Chris Foss. Deliberately drawing from reproductions, Brown manipulates this imagery, often beyond recognition, before transposing them into works of an unparalleled uncanniness, where colours and forms undergo further re-assessment.
Brown could be perceived as the ultimate Mannerist painter, perplexing the viewer with distorted, exaggerated and sometimes grotesque forms. His technical virtuosity is captivating. Executed in the traditional medium of oil paint, his paintings act as trompe-l'oeil, showing swirls of colour which at first glance seem to form a thick impasto, until surfaces reveal themselves to be actually smooth. Both alluring and unsettling, ranging from monstrous to melancholic, Brown’s paintings – like his drawings and sculptures – broadcast a pronounced indifference to common distinctions between good and bad taste, or beauty and abjection.
‘Everything oozes majestically. The paintings and sculptures of Glenn Brown are deliquescent in the physical sense of the term, the property possessed by certain solid substances of slow liquefaction by gradual absorption of atmospheric humidity. Description of this now jubilant, now morbid magma gives rise to an unending, indeed unbearable succession of sugarcoated adjectives, adverbs and nouns. One can come at these paintings only tentatively, by narratives and descriptions, by impressions, by repetitions and sonorities and by the contradictions in which they are so rich. Any language that can encompass the work of Brown must necessarily be vague, full of double-talk and ambiguity, for this is the way in which the artist treats images.’
Jean-Marie Gallais, ‘Exquisite Deliquescence’ in Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2011