Colour has always been the kernel of response in Ken Browne’s work. Even in those pieces that verge on monochrome, colour is handled with a deftness that sees the paintings keenly imbued with human feeling. In his current exhibition at The Doorway Gallery, gesture and material have become increasingly sculptural in time with the palette’s cooling; in depicting the fabric of a landscape risen and felled and continuing to alter, the works see the activity of looking become an act of introspection as well as dispersal, in that they seem so prone to change. Though poised and still, there is a sense they could be further altered or rendered, and this organic quality perhaps stems from the ephemeral aspects of ambience being portrayed — namely, the emotive impact of a place that resides in the mind and precedes language.
A sense of sculpture and its corresponding tactility has always been present in the physicality of Browne’s process. Those gestures of layering, scraping, scratching and polishing are still evident — are even permitted a greater degree of authorship, with these latest pieces hosting gestural spaces we can enter into. In comparison to earlier works which are more traditionally ‘complete’, an encroaching painterliness and lyricism now occur as technique and material cohere. The paint seems less utilised than suggested upon, and the pieces to retain something of the actual elements they depict, with several smaller works in particular acting as impressionistic or atmospheric studies.
Even though the works are explicitly about themselves, there is a progression of sorts from the impasto and polish of the swampy land to the wash and lacquer of the sky that could lend to more theoretical readings. Also, the titles often reference the essentially emotional or even romantic relationship between a figure and the land it inhabits, with Land Diary alluding to the deposits we leave on a place and Remembered Landscape suggesting the subversive and fallible tendencies of memory. Such small acts of fallacy are arguably where creation occurs, and in the exhibition there are of course moments which do not occur in nature — a daub of turquoise or a carmine smear which reference an expressive impulse, a sort of poetic intervention. A landscape, after all, imprints across the spectrum of our senses, and requires something inventive of its depiction.
Suitably, this exhibition demonstrates a practice assured in the gestures and observations of which it’s comprised. Even those works marked by their brevity demonstrate the emotive and aesthetic intelligence required to paint the impact of cold and wind with so little allusion to literal form. Browne’s being self-taught is perhaps in evidence here, with the simplicity of each composition producing an impacting rawness as it conveys the shapes thrown and disassembled in the turbulence enacted between land and sky. Sue Rainsford
Sue Rainsford is a writer based in Dublin. She is a recipient of the Arts Council’s Literature Bursary and is currently working on her debut novel, Follow Me To Ground. She is a graduate of Trinity College and IADT, and will commence an MFA in Writing and Literature at Bennington College in January 2015.
"...swirls of memory permeating the layers of earthy soil lapped by the still pools of murky sea under a blanket of Irish mist in this painting.."
" Highly evocative works..."