Maria Alvarez talks to Beatrice Brown
I first came across Beatrice Brown’s work in the spring of 2017 at an exhibition of her NOTHING series of drawings at Gallery 46 in London E1. The impact was heart-thumpingly visceral – here was what we all unconsciously seek in an artist: the DNA of a highly singular perception, one drawing on influences that marry the archaic with the here-and-now and on, into the future.
Much of her work then and now consists of lone female figures exploring the tapering border between abuse and self-abuse, the traumatic burden of corporeality. A crazed, cult-like ritualism exists alongside a pastel-and-primary blurring use of colour. Think of 60s dollybird iconography heavily inflected by Schiele’s deathly attenuation and smudged faces, a surrealist jokey darkness and a Blakean mysticism. Witches and waifs. Fury and conflicted eroticism.
The curator, James Birch, (who has curated Gilbert & George and Francis Bacon, Grayson Perry, among others, in ground-breaking shows) describes her work as having ‘the freshness of sliding down the razorblade of life’.
Her work for this ACBF (including an Extra-terrestrial clothing range, 3XBlessed with Rosie McLean) further evolves her aesthetic and an underlying persistent noise: the buzzing fragility of life.
Beatrice Brown, artist and work, seems to whizz and hover inquisitively between and over different consciousnesses and universes. A natural successor to the Surrealist women artists before her, she is the archetypal Blakean child – one of both innocence and experience. And yet also, undeniably 21st century in the rage and range of her dialogues on feminism and the body, and further, beyond: in a hallucinatory sense of nature and intimations of further natures to come.
Lotus (left) and Leafbrio (right) by Beatrice Brown
1.What do the words Flora and Fauna conjure up in your unconscious, and what lingers and forces itself into your view of life?
In my unconscious….It’s an Earth-game. The frequency and the form of nature appear to me as a matrix and symphony for an unfolding consciousness in this realm. Flora is a pure state of being and just appears to me as so gargantuan, yet so tiny, complex, magical, wise, medicinal -yet also alien. I really love the idea of a weird super-nature, the panspermia theory, Extra-terrestrials, DNA recalibration, Artificial Intelligence.
I sense a supermassive ‘parent’ reality – like some monad stirring a giant pot of starlight soup - holding this dimension for us until we discover the unity of opposites and enter a trinary codex - and somehow plant life is really present and foundational in that.
Fauna: comes to me as creatures with faces, as the physical receivers of a Unified Field which we are perpetually compelled to give birth to.
I feel like spirit or heart or love has a central role in what it is to be a living being.
2.When it comes to 'nature' are you perhaps a post-Romantic or a Surrealist ?
Making this up on the spot: I’m an auto-surrealist, I like ‘auto’ because it refers to the beat(rhythmic)-trancelike process that is central to my practice when making art.
3. One of your ACBF offerings this time is an exquisite, autonomous, other-worldly fawn - yet so vulnerable it inspires a massively protective angst in the viewer. Was that your intention? Why?
I really don’t have any intention when starting a work. It is often very painful to be fully alive – especially at the moment- and the fawn is deific and powerful but also frighteningly fragile because it lacks the anger of some of my other figures. What others see isn’t my responsibility but it’s complex to maintain a conversation regarding the perception of trauma or violence within an industry that exploits and commodifies abuse and fragility.
Fawn by Beatrice Brown
4. Does darkness come ready-made to your perception of nature or is the cycle of violence-mortality-renewal something you think humans impose on the natural order in our denial of mortality
Violence and destruction are inherently beautiful and terrifying and overwhelming and required for a whole story. Perception is violent. Nature is all things, if only you listen enough. Nowadays humans are also having to come to terms with our transient experience of an ethical good-and-evil duality which is possibly encoded in our limited framework and little to do with the entirety of what nature might well be. It’s a lot more massive.
5. Your attenuated depictions of the human body (and creatures) have always conjured up Schiele for me? Has he ever been an influence, conscious or unconscious?
I love Schiele! My mum had the best print of his, a red-haired figure wearing green (‘Seated Woman with Bent Knee' 1917) in her hallway when my sister and I were kids, so yeah deffo, many long hours looking at his drawings in awe when I was about twelve or thirteen. He did the animal/angel dichotomy like saltwater and blood and also the exquisite horror of embodiment and corporeality.
Ambidexrous by Beatrice Brown
6. Is it colour or line that predominates for you in the evocation of living things?
Either. Both. Colour is more completely sensory while the line traverses some potential rationality or finiteness, the line is demarcation. Ha ha, the line is linear. So maybe colour. I guess the process always wins out for me in the end.
7. Which artists are the masters when it comes to Flora & Fauna
Nissa Nishikawa’s sculpture and installation. I think sound could be the closest we get to expressing nature purely. Listen to Glen Copeland, so beautiful. I like a sound artist/composer called Membrane who makes resonant landscapes that transport you to some really cool states of being. Their tracks Winiarski and Ice on SoundCloud especially are gentle and intense flora/fauna trips.
My mum, Sara Brown, always said Nature is the best artist. My mum was never wrong, she was very wise, and a truly unique and loving person. I miss her. She was the best artist.
10. The colours that enshrine flora for you?
Treehead by Beatrice Brown
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