Saturday, 31 December 2011

Onwards, upwards

This year has been, quite simply, my best year as an artist, indeed it might almost be the first year I have truly considered myself an artist. I know that I have been an artist in the past, however this year I knew I was one and I knew it all year.

© Stewart Bremner 2011
Sold by Union Gallery in June
I've made better paintings this year than ever before, paintings that speak to me, that mean something, paintings with thoughts and feelings, with depth. This, above all else, is probably the single most important thing that happened this year. It is not the only thing to happen, though.

I have been in more exhibitions this year than almost every exhibition in all my previous years combined. It has been very exciting and not just because they were on two continents!

I've also sold more paintings this year than… well, you get the idea by now. Thank you everyone who took the chance to buy one of my paintings. It is because of your patronage that I am able to continue on this path.

Let Go
© Stewart Bremner 2011
Sold at the Fayetteville Underground
in October
All of these amazing things came about with the support of two special people. Close to home is Alison Auldjo at Union Gallery, who has stuck with me through times when normal gallery owners may well jumped ship. But then just as Union Gallery is no ordinary gallery, so too Alison is no ordinary gallery owner! Thank you Alison (and Rob too, of course!).

Further from home but immeasurably closer at the same time, Megan Chapman is the one person without whom I doubt I would have had the year that I did. She has been an incredible source of support, inspiration, ideas, knowledge and so much more. She has been truly indispensable and I cannot thank her enough. Megan, you are a star!

I have some big things lined up for next year and this afternoon I took my first step towards them. Next year is going to be exciting. I hope that yours is going to be as good as mine promises to be!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Begin again

This week, finally, the shared dream that a group of us had for what the next incarnation of the Fayetteville Underground was going to be, died. One more body blow was dealt by the soon to be ex-board and that was pretty much the end. It made for a pretty gloomy week, although it also marks the end of having to think and care about the place and so there is relief too. It is time to move on.
Kevin Low and I at Union Gallery (thanks Rob!)

Happily, there is a lot to move on to. Top of the list is my show next year at Union Gallery with Kevin Low, which has just been confirmed to start on April 5th. I do not yet know what I am going to paint, however I have the beginnings of an idea for what I want the work to be about, which is almost as good. Today I picked up some boards in order to start some preparatory work. Making the work for exhibition is going to be a big challenge and I can't wait to get stuck into it.

The shortest day of the year has passed and the northern hemisphere is starting its slow journey back into the light. Even though there are still plenty more dark days left, nonetheless it is a relief. Soon, I am going to paint.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Shoulder to shoulder

My artistic week has again been dominated by events at the Fayetteville Underground. Unfortunately it seems that the vision for the future of that organisation, as the Fayetteville Arts Alliance, is on the verge of expiring.

From my distant hideaway my thoughts swing between anger and depression at this turn of events. Up close, I cannot imagine how it must feel to have spent so much time and effort on the enterprise and to have put your reputation on the line, only to witness this sad decline.

Of course, no one asked me to get involved, nevertheless I did because I believed in the organisation. I believed it was more than just the sum of its parts and that it would go on to bigger and greater things. It is a terrible shame that this belief was not wholly shared.

St. Hope, originally uploaded by stewartbremner.
An easy lesson to take from this would be that one should not act for the (perhaps only perceived) greater good, that it is easier by far to simply look out for oneself because that is what everyone else is doing. I have never been one for taking that easy path and, as a socialist, my entire belief system is based upon the idea that when we act together, we are stronger. It is who I am and what I do.

Ironically, I realise now that I share some ideals with my father, as he was thirty years ago. At that time he was a shop steward for his union, which marked him as hard left and a trouble maker, at least as far as the establishment was concerned. In standing up for his beliefs and for those around him, he was black-listed by the Thatcher regime and was never again able to work in his trade. I am very glad that today, it seems, standing up for ideas beyond the self is becoming a global phenomena, even in places such as the United States where for so long the individual has been prized above all else.

The need to look out for each other has never been greater, than it is now. We are under constant and daily threat from the powers that own our governments, powers that have caused our world to turn away from post-Second World War dreams of liberty for all, into an undemocratic pro-capitalist corporate entity. Only by standing together can we hope to make it through this time, which I fear is likely to be the most difficult and dangerous that most of us will ever see. We need to stand together in every walk of life, in every way we can.

The Fayetteville Underground will cease operations at the end of next week. If anything is to take its place, if the Fayetteville Arts Alliance is ever to become a reality, at the core it is going to need a family of artists who will look out for each other, who will stand together, and do what needs to be done to support the group which, in turn, supports them. To me the Underground, at its best, was such a group. The Alliance needs no less to succeed and I wish those who are part of it every success in their future.

Friday, 9 December 2011

See you next Tuesday

Winter Wonderland at Union Gallery,
December 8th-January 24th.
Last night saw the opening of Union Gallery's new exhibition, Winter Wonderland. I have six pieces in the show and it was very exciting to see them on the wall next to four by Megan Chapman and just around the corner from three by Trevor Jones. We had our own little mostly-abstract corner and I enjoyed spending time near it last night.

The weather, rather unfortunately, played against us last night and the turn out was much lower than usual. With luck, all of those who did not make it along to the opening will turn up in the coming weeks. In fact, if any of those who missed the opening come along on Tuesday  (13th December), they'll find me in the gallery all day!

I'm very much looking forward to spending more time in the abstract corner and in the exhibition, which being busy, full and colourful is the perfect antidote to the short and dark winter days. I am also hoping I'll get to talk to visitors about my art and Megan's. If you are in town on Tuesday, come past and say hello. The gallery is open from 10:30am-6pm.

I have also this week been continuing to think about making art and especially my two major joint shows next year. Very soon now, I am going to start working on the first of them, that will take place in Union Gallery in April, with Kevin Low. I'm very excited by this and, even though I have an idea of what I want the work to be about, I do not know yet how it will look. It is going to be without doubt my biggest artistic undertaking to date, indeed I don't think I have yet taken in the magnitude of the challenge that lies before me. Just now all I feel is excited. Would anyone care to predict when the fear will kick in?!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Show time

With the creation of art currently on hold, this past week has been more about the showing and selling of art and the showing and selling of art that is to come. To begin with, I have work in two end of year shows.

Sold this week: Make it
(Mixed media, 10x10"
© 2011 Stewart Bremner)

The third annual Fayetteville Underground Art for the Holidays exhibition got under way this week, with a selection of my work in two of their galleries. Some of my Hidden Message series, as well as six pieces from Craig Munro and my Iteration/Span photos are on show in the Hive Annex, while the remaining sixteen of my Fading Glories and a few more Hidden Messages are in the Revolver. Happily two Hidden Messages sold in the first 24 hours! The show runs until Christmas, so do head down there if you're in Northwest Arkansas.

On the home front, six of my small paper works have been chosen for the Union Gallery's Winter Wonderland show! They are currently at the framer and I am looking forward to seeing them all spic and span and ready to hang next week. The show opens on Thursday night and I will be there, so do come along and ask me about my work. Also on show are four of Megan Chapman's Sometimes I Love You paintings and I'm really looking forward to seeing them out in public in Edinburgh. Naturally, I'll be very happy to speak about them as well. Come out and get the inside scoop!

This week also saw some more developments for the year to come. The big new news is that Megan and I have been offered a show next year at the Art Center of the Ozarks! We've not made any definite plans yet, other than to decide that we will be creating a new body of work for it. This work will follow in the footsteps of our A Question of Chemistry series, which in itself will be showing over March and April at the Northwest Arkansas Community College.

I also this week briefly met Glasgow artist Kevin Low and we tentatively discussed out joint show that is happening next year in April at the Union Gallery. Again there is not much to reveal as yet, but plans are afoot and I'm very excited!

Friday, 25 November 2011

In the dark

Winter draws in, with hesitance and with flickering speed, inexorably, it draws in. Sunset here in this sheltered part of north western Europe, slips ever earlier, closing in on half past three in the afternoon, although fated never to quite reach there. This steep side of winter, sliding down into that dark well before the solstice, feels like the hardest part of winter (although in truth every part of winter feels like the hardest part of winter when it is happening).

Ahead of me, over the winter, I will be creating a new body of work for my forthcoming exhibition with Kevin Low in April at Edinburgh's Union Gallery. Ideas for that series, the subjects and the thoughts I want to explore and the moments I want to pin down are slowly gestating. But this is not the time to create a new body of work, in these short and dark days, with the light so hesitant and faltering in the old part of the year.

This is the time to close down, to circle hibernation, to consume culture and use its fire for heat, to follow fairy tales, dark, sinister and hidden beneath bough and bark, through the long cold nights. When day time begins its climb back towards life, that is when the work begins. Until then, I think.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Strange brew

It is approaching half past four in the afternoon and not a lot of sunlight is left in the sky, duck egg to the west, shading into deeper blues in the east. I'm back home in Scotland now and there is just not all that much light here. After spending nearly three months in Arkansas, it has come as something of a shock, this lack of daylight. I should be writing here about art, not light, however with jet lag still in full effect, it can be hard to stay focussed.

Art… right. Art.

Is there a conscious idea here?
© 2011 Stewart Bremner. Ink on paper.
Over the sleepless hours of the past few days, on two aeroplanes, a car, a bus and a train, across four and a half thousand miles and through three airports, I have felt something brewing deep inside. With that imperfect focus, that hands-grasping-soap-in-the-bath feeling when I think, I am not sure what exactly is brewing, nonetheless I know that it will become art.

Over most of this year, my painting has evolved into an means of expression. Abstract expressionism, for all of the baggage the term carries, best describes what I have painted: abstract paintings that express a particular moment in my life. Each one is a message in a bottle from the past, being carried ever forward on time's tide. What is brewing now, is what I expect to seed those next bottles with.

My hazy thoughts slip around in this messy brew of ideas and words. Identity, belonging, memory and distance shine in the murk. Will they figure in the work? Perhaps. I can't say. A number of strange scribbled sketches are dotted in two different books and again I wonder what their relevance is. They are neither on a medium or in a material I think I will use but again I cannot be sure.

Somewhere nearby lurks revelation. Wakefulness is what I seek first.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Amorphous time

Blind conviction
© 2011 Craig Munro and Stewart Bremner
(part of my First Thursday sale!)

It has been really quite a busy time recently, which is one of the reasons for my Friday blog being almost a week late! I've been heavily involved in the recent goings on at the Fayetteville Underground and in the artist's new campaign, which will soon see them rise like a phoenix from its ashes. I'm utterly convinced that these brilliant people are going on to something bigger and better in their new organisation.

Fayetteville is very lucky to have something so amazing and I really hope that its citizens will do all they can to assist this new venture. To learn more about what the artists are going to be doing, please, please visit morph the org. The artists need everyone's support in their exciting new venture, including yours (even if you are not in Fayetteville)!

Come and say hello, or goodbye!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fading glory

When I was in my teens, I was very keen on custom cars and vintage American cars. The chrome and the curves and the outlandish styling captivated me. I subscribed to two different car magazines, had bedroom walls covered in double-page spreads of cars and even had a led sled t-shirt (although it was stolen from the back garden washing line not long after I bought it, so doesn't quite count). It was my obsession in the years before music fully took control of me.

During September, the first month of my stay in Fayetteville, that old obsession returned. For over thirty days I took photos of cars to publish in my daily photo journal online. Every single day I hunted down, and often simply walked into, beautiful cars. I talked to their owners whenever they were in attendance and I took thousands of photos. Eventually after many splendid adventures, I had to stop because it was becoming too much of a hindrance on my day and Megan's, who was often needed to drive me to these cars (ah yes, the irony here being I have never learned to drive!).

Last week when I stopped taking the car photos, I knew that I was not yet over the obsession. I wanted to make it continue in some way and I had the idea to make art from the images I had amassed. As it happened, artist Linda Sheets (who for weeks had been whetting my appetite by feeding me a fine line of car adverts from vintage magazines) had cut down some MDF strips into square blocks for me. I realised these would be the ideal place for my car art. There was something about their chunky appearance that just seemed right. However I did not know quite what the art would be, apart from somehow combining the cars with my abstract painting style. I considered several ideas, before settling on drawing the cars directly onto the gessoed blocks and then painting over the drawings.

Representational art is something I have avoided for years and I was hesitant to make any now. It has taken time and perseverance to reach the point that I have, where I am settling into abstract painting and even becoming (ever so slightly) known for it. To make non-abstract art seemed like either a backwards step, or possibly even self-sabotage.

On the other hand, the impetus to make this art was very strong and I have learnt never to ignore the muse when it strikes. Sometimes it is better to move and then find the time later for explanations. With this in mind I began working and, with encouragement from Megan, Linda and Jennifer Libby Fay, I continued. So far I have made seventeen paintings (although only fourteen are shown in the above video).

These paintings fuse my love of line, my training in illustration, my obsession with vintage cars and my new-found confidence in mark making. I have combined the skills I learned in making abstract art with my dormant illustrative skills to simply enjoy myself. These paintings were created for no other reason than to make them, they do not represent a new direction, nor an old one, they simply are.

All of the paintings are on six inch square, 3/4 inch deep MDF blocks. I may make as many as thirty of them, depending on how many blocks are left in the box Linda left me.

I'd love to hear what you think of my mini-project. Any and all opinions are welcome. How are my drawing skills after all this time? Do you think I'm making a mistake mentioning this in public? Do you love them so much you simply must buy one? Please, drop me a line or leave a comment and, once again, thank you for stopping by.

(shown in the above video are: '53 Plymouth, '59 Edsel Ranger, '66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, '62 Oldsmobile Super 88, '55 Chevrolet Bel Air, '73 Pontiac Catalina, '54 Dodge Wayfarer, '55 Nash Ambassador Super, '65 Ford Falcon Futura, '61 Ford Galaxie Starliner, '67 Pontiac Firebird, '60 Chevrolet Impala, '56 Continental II, '60 Cadillac Coupe de Ville)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Not so hidden now

Who I am
© Stewart Bremner 2011
Mixed media on board, 8x8"
Until last weekend, it did not seem that I had done all that much work since I arrived in Fayetteville. Last weekend, however, with Megan Chapman's help I tidied up the studio I am visiting at the Fayetteville Underground and was able to make it into a temporary exhibition space for First Thursday. Once the walls were painted, the lights sorted and my work hung, I realised just how much work I've done here. It was kind of staggering seeing it all. I've made 20 new paintings as part of my Hidden Messages series and while the largest is only 16x20" that is still a lot of work.

Sitting here in the studio surrounded by that work, as well as the series, A question of chemistry, (with Megan) and six of the Iteration/span photos (with Craig Munro) feels great. Other than the Life is the process paintings (three of which are showing in the Found Gallery in Dunbar right now), this has been my year and it has been quite a year. I feel like I've really achieved something.

Let go
© Stewart Bremner 2011
Mixed media on board, 8x8"
Last night at the First Thursday opening, I had three hours of conversations about the work. It was great fun to engage with people who were genuinely interested in both my work and who I was.

This morning I was invited to be part of a two-man show with artist Kevin Low at Union Gallery in April 2012. I can't even begin to express how excited I am by this. Please do head over to their Union Gallery's Facebook page right now and friend them. They are lovely people!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Above board

All it takes
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"
Last week, I worked on three 16x20" canvases. Two of them went well and were more or less completed by the end of the week, however there was one that I simply couldn't find an end to. The piece stayed hanging on my painting spot, as I watched and watched, wondering if I was done with it. I could not work out how to move forward.

Heat© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"
Reaching such a sticking point is not an uncommon occurrence, however finding a way to break from it can be tricky. It is an event that somehow is easily forgotten after it has passed and so I do not have a plan in place to combat it. As luck would have it, an amiable and at times out-spoken ex-Texan came to my rescue.

© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"
Linda Sheets is one of the Underground's studio artists and this weekend sees the end of her month-long exhibition there, The Dog and Monkey Show. Linda is known for her scratchboard work and her current show, as the title suggests, was a lot of fun. Sometime around the middle of the week, she gave me a half dozen small scratch boards to work on. It was exactly what I needed to shake me from my inactivity. As soon as I started working on those small boards, all six of which are pictured here, a flow began that lasted the week.

We do it all
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"
Making art on such a small scale was an interesting and fun challenge. I also greatly enjoyed the solidity of working on board, after using canvas for the past few weeks. I realised that canvas is not the ideal medium for how I am working at present, that I need a ground that I can work into, one that I can scratch and score and mark. Canvas simply will not provide that ground.

It will all work out
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"
It was with this realisation in mind, that I got some larger boards and spent the rest of the week working on them. I'm pleased with the work I produced, which all fits as part of my Hidden Messages series. Next week is First Thursday at the Underground and I plan to show this work in my borrowed studio. If you are in the area, please come along and say hello. I'm in the first studio on the right before the galleries.

Be alone
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media
, 3x5"

Friday, 23 September 2011

Moving again

After finding a little corner of the Fayetteville Underground's classroom to paint in a few weeks ago, I made two paintings. Somehow after that, I never quite made it back to painting in there. Partly it was because the space was a public one.

As luck would have it, Underground artist Maggie Ivy went back to study in Sweden a few days ago and so for the next month, I have her studio to work in. It is a really big space, which seems almost intimidating, and it is very empty right now. I plan to make it home until the end of October and I've already started two new pieces.  If you are in the area, drop by and say hello. You might even catch me making more new paintings!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Another 5x5

She Brings Me Back
© 2011 Stewart Bremner, Mixed media, 5x5"

The last time I visited Arkansas, I painted a 5x5" painting for a fundraiser at the nearby Tulsa Artist's Coalition in Oklahoma. During this visit I've again painted a 5x5 for an arts fundraiser, this time the ninth annual 5by5 Exhibition at the Arts Center of the Ozarks. Both exhibitions sell the work through auction and use the profits to fund their organisations. Whilst that means there is no direct profit in this for the artists, there still other benefits.

To begin with, it gets your art out into the public and, for me in particular, in places it has never been seen before. That means another group show for my CV and exposure into a new market. More altruistically, these kind of shows also help to raise awareness of art, bringing it not only to people who may never have considered buying any before, but also those who cannot normally afford to. It brings people into the art world and that is not only a benefit to artists, but to everyone who enjoys art.

When painting my entry for the exhibition, I found there is something about working on this small size and shape of the canvas that is quite enjoyable. It feels both like a quick sketch painting and something more serious. Having spent some time recently working on other small paintings, it was not as much of a stretch to paint as the last 5x5 and it fits as part of my ongoing Hidden Messages series. Next week I'm going back to painting bigger pieces.

5by5 Exhibition, Arts Center of the Ozarks, 214 South Main St., Springdale, AR; October 5–November 4, 2011 (Ticketed reception, Thursday, November 3, 2011 5:55–7:55)

Friday, 9 September 2011

In a distant classroom

My borrowed studio space in the Fayetteville Underground's classroom
A few days ago I came the closest I've been yet to having an actual away-from-the-house studio, when I was told by the lovely people at the Fayetteville Underground that I could take over a corner of their under-used classroom. I was slightly reluctant at first to be in such a large space and one that was not solely for my use. However, I decided to try it out and in less than a few hours I'd made a nice space for myself.

Find my certainties
© 2011 Stewart Bremner, Mixed media 20"x16"
That moment of clarity
© 2011 Stewart Bremner, Mixed media 20"x16"
Over the last few days in that space, I've come close to completing two new canvas paintings, both 20x16", that build in the simple idea  behind my Hidden Messages series of paper paintings. It has been really enjoyable to be painting larger pieces again, after working on so many small bits of paper. I've had room to make a few more expansive strokes and to load the painting more with paint and water. The large space of the classroom has also given me room to really get some distance from my paintings, which I have found has helped at times when I've painted myself into a compositional corner.

My plan now is to build on these pieces and to attempt to create a small body of work, with luck, I can get exhibited here in the US.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Spreading the message

In our imaginations
© 2011 Stewart Bremner

Mixed media 5.25" x 8.5"
It's a week and a half since I arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In that time I've been bitten by a score of bugs (or bitten a score of times by one bug), tried hard to deal with the high temperature and humidity and painted four new small paintings. The last of these three things I'm really quite pleased about.

These new paintings are part of my Hidden Messages series of affordable works, that I began in July. The series was conceived as a message to, or about, a distant lover. Each message is composed of one line of text, which forms the kernel of each painting. The messages, however, are almost fully obliterated in the painting process, leaving only small hints as to their content. Every painting marks tiny moment in time that, like every moment we live through, is irrecoverably lost to the past.

Which way
© 2011 Stewart Bremner

Mixed media 5.25" x 8.5"
As well as these four pieces I've just painted, I brought eight more of the series with me. All twelve are on display at the Fayetteville Underground this month outside the studio of Megan Chapman, along with the remaining eleven paintings from my Post Process series.

My most exciting new news is that my work has been picked up by the Found Gallery in Dunbar! They've taken three of my Life Is The Process paintings and six of my Hidden Messages paintings. All will be on show there very soon and should be up for the rest of the month. So if you're in either North West Arkansas or East Lothian this month, stop by and see some of my newest pieces.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Stewart is away

A few days ago I arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I will be for the next two months. Consequently much of the past week and more has been spent preparing and then travelling. Art has not been on my mind all that much. Next week I expect I'll have something to report.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A morning vision

Just a kiss away
Mixed media, approx. 11x8" on 12.5x9.5" paper.
© Stewart Bremner. All rights reserved.
Less than forty-eight hours after writing my last entry, the dam slowly opened. I woke up one morning with a half-formed idea floating around my conscious. When I got up, I decided to gesso a few sheets of paper and see if I could make the idea more concrete. The first of the three pieces went really awry and has subsequently been wiped out. The other two worked out quite well, even though they were by no means the pieces that had been in my morning brain.

Silent reply
Mixed media, approx. 5.25x8.5" on 6.5x9.5" paper
© 2011 Stewart Bremner. All rights reserved.
With those two complete, I found that I was unsatisfied and so I made another four paintings. For these pieces, I discarded any notion of trying to capture some half-seen vision and made an attempt to revisit the éciture automatique technique that I had some success with recently. The process and the results I found to be far more satisfying.

I have subsequently worked on eight more or these small paper pieces this week and am really quite enjoying the results. As and when they are dry, I will be selling them through my Etsy shop, where right now you can find the first six paintings mentioned above.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Crack that dam

Being an artist is a full time job and it is a full time job where much of the activity is, like an iceberg, mostly unseen. To get to the point of making a mark needs a lot of preparation, a lot of thinking and planning, even simply getting ones brain to the right place, tuned to the right frequency.

For me, at times, I feel there is inside me something that roughly equates to a reservoir, where my artistic drive is stored. Over time, it fills, with ideas, with motivation, with energy. I never know quite when it will overflow, what incident, fragment of a thought, image seen out of the corner of my eye, word from a lover, brush stroke in another's painting, or simply some random confluence of events, will cause it to crack, yet I know that it will at some point. The motivation, the ideas, the need to paint will rise and I will simply have to paint. It happens time and again and it is all I can do to ride that wave for all that it is worth.

Right now, my reservoir is filling. Whilst that happens, I think and I look and I talk and I take photographs. One day soon, I will paint again.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Friend or foe?

The progress I was making in my recent canvas paintings came to a halt this week. Given the close links between my painting and my life, it is hard to tell whether this halt was the cause of a recent downgrade in my positivity, or the result of it. Sometimes cause and effect can be too closely entwined to be separately indentified and it is not always worth the effort of trying.

The two canvases sit in my studio and I stare at them. The exciting immediacy of my recent paper paintings, which was the impetus behind these new works, has not really translated over as well as I had hoped. There could be two reasons for this.

Firstly, I may be investing too much fraught care and attention here, which is more or less the antithesis of what I had been doing with the paper paintings. Their immediacy has given way to lengthy consideration and second guessing, Secondly, I fear that the concept underpinning these pieces may simply be too thin, have been given to little consideration, to hold up.

These are just two possible reasons for my halt and they come at the end of a darker week than I have had in some time. Perhaps now that I am climbing out of that darkness, I will find a way to move forwards with these two pieces. However, my inclination is to dive back into small paper pieces and see where they take me. Next week, with luck and a tail wind, I'll have something new to show!

Friday, 29 July 2011


With two pieces currently under way, I stopped to look at them at the beginning of the week. Somehow it feels, at least presently, that something is not quite right with them. I've really enjoyed making them and I feel there is a definite progression to my mark making, however something small and niggling just is not clicking. So it is lucky that for most of this week, I am away on holiday. It will be interesting to return to them next week.

Friday, 22 July 2011

A little tighter

The large canvas painting that I began last week has been put aside to rest, while I think over my next move. I reached a point with it, delicately close to completion, where what I do next will either make or break the piece. It is a fine balance and I need to be careful not to take the piece backwards. This is always a risk with every painting and the trick is to accept that this can happen, will happen, and not to let it stop you from making a mark. Nonetheless, with this piece I simply cannot be certain what mark to make at all and so it rests, whilst I contemplate. It is a dynamic presence opposite the foot of my bed and I see it there every morning. One of these mornings, I will look at it and I will know what I need to do to it next.

Untitled work in progress
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media, 20"x16"
In the mean time, I have began a new painting, again on canvas although smaller at 20"x16". It has been interesting to move to this more intimate size after the freedom of the larger canvas. My mark making has been tighter and slightly less expansive. In musical terms (music being the driving force behind my current work), I have been concentrating on tightly intense periods, as opposed to massively powerful ones. A sharp guitar solo, instead of massive riffs, for example.

Interestingly, the size of this piece, and perhaps the immediacy that has been engendered by it, makes me feel that this is far closer to completion than my larger previous painting. A little more time with it should suffice.

The week has also brought me a few more sales from my Etsy shop, which has been very exciting. It is very rewarding to see my works shipping across the world and I want to thank, again, everyone who has bought one of my pieces. Your support allows me to continue on my journey and I am truly grateful.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Automatic writing

The only proof of what you are is
in the way you see the truth

© 2011 Stewart Bremner

Mixed media 5.25" x 8.5"
In 1919, Les Champs Magnétiques by André Breton was published. It was the first known use of a technique he developed called éciture automatique. Described as the "dictation of thought without control of reason", it was seized on not just by the Surrealist movement, but by many abstract expressionists across the century. Reading peripherally about it this week, I realised that this was a method similar to what I had realised in my own work at the start of the year. It was also the method that I used, in combination with the lessons learned while painting with Megan Chapman, to paint sixteen small paper paintings last weekend.

The paintings were created using particularly-chosen music to provide both an emotional focus and the energy to drive my will. I listened to the songs very loudly through headphones, allowing my movements and marks to be dictated by my responses to the music and to how I was feeling at the time. This could very much be described as painting "without the control of reason". It was a freeing and enjoyable experience, although incredibly wearing, and I was unable to paint in this manner for much more than an hour at a time. I consequently worked on the pieces over several staggered sessions, across four days. The results surprised me.

Because you know we do it right
© 2011 Stewart Bremner

Mixed media 5.25" x 8.5"
I had set about these paintings with the intent of loosening up and trying to find my way back into working on my own. Quite unexpectedly, the pieces developed quickly into a small series in their own right and, better yet, gave me motivation sufficient to start my first (solo) painting on canvas of the year.

The pieces share a sense of dynamism, of energy. They also all show a central shape, that I would describe as a body if that did not engender anatomical expectations. The shapes are at once being acted upon by forces and exerting forces of its own. They are part of a story, of something possibly bigger than themselves and looking at them now, I am faintly stunned that I made them.

Don't know how long I've been awake
© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media 5.25" x 8.5"
Dynamic and energetic is both how I would describe these pieces and my reaction to them. I am genuinely thrilled by where these paintings have led me. It feels like I am at the start of an exciting moment in my work and I can't wait to see how it develops and how I develop with it.

You can find the new paper pieces in my Etsy shop, where I have priced them quite affordably. There has been one sale and plenty of interest already, so don't wait too long to snap one up it it grabs your attention!

Friday, 8 July 2011

All you need to do is turn up

Today has been a victory because I have painted. Today has not been a victory, although for slight more complicated reasons.

© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media on paper
Being an artist may seem to many an easy life: all one needs is to have a bit of talent, some technical skills, materials and a studio. From then onwards, one just turns up. Sadly, that's not the case. As an artist, as a painter, most of my professional working time is not spent painting. Rather, most of the time is spent thinking about art, looking at art and fretting about art. In particular, fretting about my own art.

When I making a painting well, the feeling is incomparable. It is sublime. It is what I live for, yet it is a fleeting moment. When I am not in that moment and the periods bookending it, doubt will all to frequently creep in. I doubt that I can ever break free of the painting the same idea ad nauseum ("how do I paint something new?"), I doubt that I will ever progress ("where do I go from here?") and I doubt whether I can, or even will, paint ever again.

© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media on paper
Painting is a balancing act. To do it well, an artist needs to walk the line between order and chaos, between head and heart and between joy and doubt. Artists use all their skills and their materials to walk that line and it is a line they walk almost always alone, because painting is mostly a solitary process. It is a process of reaching within, subject to and powered entirely by one's own energy. It is an incredibly personal mode of expression, where often as not one is laying bare ones inner-most being. To explore these depths, to pull out the material needed, to mine one's soul, is an intensive and tiring process that is simply not sustainable over lengthy periods of time. Those creative moments are then limited and, in the fallow periods that exist between them, the doubts bloom.

With the recent completion of my Life is the Process series, with nothing but a void of empty, gessoed paper in front of me, today I face these doubts. However, I painted, I made marks and for a while I lost myself in the work. I have started to address the question "Where do I go from here?", even though as yet I have no answer. And so I clutch desperately at my tube of cadmium orange and I stand in front of those sheets of gessoed paper and I wonder "How do I paint?"

Friday, 1 July 2011

Moving on and letting go

Yesterday, I completed what may well be the last of my Life is the Process series of paintings. When I came back to this work after a months-long break, I was unsure what kind of success I would have, whether or not I would be able to make a cohesive series. Happily, I believe that I have. It seems to me to be my first mature body of work, although I will admit that I feel this way because I am so fired up for what I am now painting and how I am painting it.

I'd love to share these new paintings today, however they are currently under several stacks of records. When I removed these pieces from my painting board, they were more warped by paint and water than I deemed acceptable and so I decided it would be best to properly flatten them. Once they are freed from their oppression, I'll highlight the whole series here.

I'm also going to soon highlight a new series of paintings, that I began work on this week. They are all going to be small and affordable paper pieces, taking my Life is the Process series as a starting point. I'm making them because I really believe we should all have original art in our houses and that current financial circumstances makes this difficult for most of us. I'm also making them in order to move on from my Life is the Process series. I'm consequently expecting to see a gradual progression in my work over these pieces.

Treading Water available on Etsy.
These affordable paper pieces will be listed on Etsy, as and when I complete them, so do keep an eye out for them there. You'll also see over the next few days on Etsy, that I will be listing paintings from my archive, all at reduced prices. Many of these are paintings I've been holding onto for some time and have decided that the time has come to let go of them. These are the remnants of my decade as a pop artist, as well as some of the progressive pieces I made as I moved from that tightly controlled style, to the freedom of abstraction. I really hope you enjoy the glimpse into my past and that some of you out there will give them good homes!

Thanks again for stopping by.

Friday, 24 June 2011


(currently untitled)
Fantastic news: all three of the paintings I have in the current show at Union Gallery have sold and a fourth painting has been commissioned! I'm really, really excited – the show could not have worked out any better for me. As luck would have it, I was even working in the gallery on the day that three of the four sold and I was able to put out red dots on my own work. Several days later and it is still too soon to evaluate what this means to me. In fact, it feels like the news has not sunk in properly. A few words float around in my head: joy, confirmation, confidence, relief, gratitude.

I also painted this week and was able to revise and finish a painting that I started way back before things got crazy. I'm slowly making my way back into painting again and it feels very good.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Slight return

I've really been enjoying popping into Union Gallery this week, to look at the three paintings of mine that are on show there this month. It is a joy to see the pieces away from the clutter and mess of my studio, framed and mounted in pristine white. In fact next week I will be looking after the gallery on Monday and Tuesday and I just know I am going to spend a lot of my time standing in front of my paintings, looking in wonder at the marks that I made all those months ago, being ever so slightly amazed by their complexity and thinking, "I made this?". The time that has passed since I created them, as well as their physical distance from my day-to-day reality, has been enough to allow me to appreciate them more fully.

Back in the studio, I completed my first solo painting since my return from Fayetteville. It was strange to return to the physical and mental space I created in February, as well as working on this series which also started then. All the time there was an awareness in me of where I had been and what I had painted since then, that seemed to want to pull my arm and shape my intentions. However, I resisted the temptation of the new, in order not to create a series with an obvious fracture.

Sadly, I will not be sharing my new painting because the paper it was painted on warped badly, to a degree inexplicably more than any other of my paper pieces. I'm going to attempt to rectify that situation and, with luck, there will be more than one new painting to show next week!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Now We Are Two

© Magpie at Blipfoto
Last night saw the opening of Union Gallery's Now We Are Two exhibition, a joint show in which I have three pieces from my series Life is the process. I began this series back in March, when I last had time and space in my studio to paint. A lot of other jobs and, or course, my trip to Fayetteville have all occurred since then. Yesterday, therefore, returning to these pieces having not seen them in six weeks and seeing them not just hanging in a gallery but framed really well was a genuine pleasure. I spent so much time looking at them that I began to feel that I was maybe being insulting by not looking much at the other work in the show.

The gap between me and this body of work also seems to have kept away that common ailment, the post-show blues. Rather than wondering what I am going to do next or if, even worse, I will ever paint again, I am feeling excited about returning to Life is the Process and completing the series. My original plan was for it to contain nine works and at present there are only five finished pieces. Next week I will put my studio back together and re-learn how to paint by myself. The pieces in the show are the best things I have ever painted (alone!) and I really looking forward to trying to match that feat.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A matter of distances

After the storm
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 40x30"
Seven days after completing 'A question of chemistry' with Megan Chapman, I was hoping to review the series, to have had the time to stand back and appraise what we had achieved in three intensive weeks of painting. Somehow, today, I find that I have both too much distance and yet not enough.

Physically, I am now four and a half thousand miles from the paintings. I do not know when, or indeed if, I will see them again. (Which, I must point out, is not negativity – I do hope to work in Megan's studio again one day, however perhaps by that day the whole series will have sold!) Returning to look them over, to let my eyes drink in their complexities is no longer possible and, as is always the case, photos of paintings never do them justice. In the flesh, paintings have an almost indefinable quality about them that reproductions invariably lack.

On the other hand, in the week that has passed, I have returned across six time zones, slept intermittently and am rather unsettled to be home alone. I have not yet found the mental space needed to stand back and look or, rather, think about what we achieved in our collaboration.

All of the nine paintings in our series are now available to view over on Facebook. Please do take a look over there and let Megan and I know what you think.

This coming Thursday, 9th June, sees some of my work go on show in Union Gallery's second birthday exhibition. A private preview is taking place from 6-8pm that night and I will be there if you want to come along and ask me questions. I'd be more than happy to see some familiar faces!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Nearing completion

We communicate through static
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 30x24"

 …and so my last week in Fayetteville, Arkansas, rolls to a close. It has been a fun, challenging and exciting time, not to mention, when the grown-up weather rolled across us, really quite frightening. Megan Chapman and I spent a good deal of the week in the studio, putting the finishing touches to our collaborative series 'A question of chemistry' (as well as hiding from the storms!).

Yesterday, with the final piece of the series nearing completion, we took the opportunity to take a look at all of our paintings at once. We quickly realised that we were too close to the work to really take it all in and so recruited some help from Jennifer Libby Fay, another Fayetteville Underground artist, to give us an outside opinion. Happily Jennifer was impressed by the body of work and, after some discussion between the three of us, we concluded that only one piece looked to be in need of slight alteration.

Beneath the silence
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 30x24"
As ever when making art, an outside opinion is an incalculable aid to achieving perspective. Jennifer's voice allowed us to regain the vision we shared upon returning to the first piece after taking our initial break. We not only were able to once again see the depth and complexity of that painting, but also how we had gone on to translate it into the rest of the work. Needless to say, we were quite pleased!

Tomorrow we are going to have a sneak preview of the series in Megan's studio. It will almost certainly be the only time we will be together to show the work. We're looking forward to exciting afternoon and we hope that if you are in Fayetteville, you'll be able to drop by.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A question of chemistry

The collaborative series Megan Chapman and I have been working on really took off this week. Initially, our collaborative process was more tense than enjoyable and we had doubts about the project. Sensibly, we took a few days away from Megan's studio, during which time we talked over our painting process and agreed a more relaxed set of rules. We returned to the studio with some trepidation, yet were more than pleasantly surprised by what we found there: the first piece we had painted was revealed as being very nearly finished. It was so much better than we had hoped for, in fact quite a complex piece and, after making only slight additions to it, immediately hung it in the Vault Gallery at the Fayetteville Underground, where we sat and looked at it for a long time.

Fired up by the success, we began another painting and, over the week, completed three further pieces, with a one more piece in progress. The newer paintings are bolder than the first painting, reflecting the more confident and relaxed approach we have taken to them. Each one is a curious blend of our two hands, with hints towards both of our styles for those with sharp eyes.

This week has been some of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in a studio. It has truly been a collaborative process, where often four hands are moving over the canvas and, at times, two brains are acting as one.

We are planning to a further four or five pieces in this series, which we have named A question of chemistry. Come back next week and see how things progress!

We took the quiet roads
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 30x40"

A strange currency
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 40x30"

A fearless humming across the wires
© 2011 Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
Mixed Media on Canvas, 30x40"

Sunday, 15 May 2011

An unexpected update

I thought I would find you here, 60x48"

We returned to the studio today. As soon as we walked in and saw that first collaboration piece, it was obvious that it was very nearly finished. A little time later it was. We also started two more pieces. A full update will come on Friday…

Friday, 13 May 2011

Collaboration time

Megan takes a turn

Finally, after talking about it for quite some time, abstract artist Megan Chapman and I were able to start out first collaborative piece this week. This is the first time I have collaborated with another artist and I really had no idea how it would work.

We decided that we would take turns working on a large canvas that was in the back of Megan's studio, with approximately ten minutes per turn. I gessoed and started the piece, then we began taking our turns, whilst similarly alternating control of the music playing.

Seeing Megan work as she created textures using techniques I had only heard her describe was fascinating. The working process, however, was not as smooth as we had hoped it would be. The relinquishment of control over the whole painting, together with having someone else in your space as you work challenged both of us. We managed a few hours of work, during which time the piece changed dramatically several times over. At present it is unfinished and full of potential. More on this next week!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mirror world

This week has been a pretty eventful one in art land. The biggest news was the opening of my and fellow photographer Craig Munro's joint exhibition iteration/span at the Fayetteville Underground in Arkansas, USA. This is not just my first exhibition of photography but also my first international show and it has been very exciting. We were invited to do the show by Megan Chapman, a studio artist at the Underground who is responsible for much of programming of their galleries' exhibitions. 

I also spent part of the week painting in Megan's studio and was able to complete nine new works on board. These pieces, collectively titled Mirror World, reflect on my first fortnight spent in a familiar and yet quite different culture.

Everything seems bigger

Familiar from afar

Gradual acclimitisation

Here comes the stride

I say tomato

I've heard this one before

They say it's the same

This land is your land

Up close the weave is different