Angela Brennan - Interview

Published Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Lots of critics think Iím on a deliberate program to undermine modernism and male abstract artists Ė Iím not at all.

Hi my name is Angela Brennan, Iím a Melbourne artist and Iíve been painting professionally for about 12 years. Iím an abstract artist predominantly, although I do figurative work as well and Iím represented by Niagara Galleries in Melbourne and Roslyn Oxley Galleries in Sydney.

My paintings range in various sizes, for example some are as large as 2m x 1.5m and others are as small as 20cm by 30cm. I work with oil paint on canvas or linen usually the paintings are stretched but occasionally I pin the canvas or linen to the walls or floor, really depending where my studio is, say if Iím overseas Iíll work off the stretcher and on the wall. Sometimes I have a clear and defined idea of how I want a painting to develop but at other times the preliminary marks I make on the canvas dictate the rest of the painting. The latter approach is the more exciting because there is an element of chance, that is to say the picture evolves in directions that were previously unimagined and thatís the thrill of it, to see what evolves just by laying marks down on top of each other or big blobs of colour so its as if Iím not in control of it absolutely, itís as if the painting makes itself. Thereís a subconscious element of course Ė I mean itís ninety percent.

Itís not related to mood Ė I donít think there is an equivalence with mood. So, if thereís a pink painting that doesnít necessarily mean Iím happy. Lotís of people take it that colour is synonymous with mood Ė itís more the play of tones just bouncing off each other that dictate the hue and the colour.

Some paintings take several weeks to complete and others are finished in a day or less Ė half a day or whatever, just a sitting. It all depends on the method I use Ė for example if I am staining a painting with a background colour then I have to wait for it to dry and then I build it up with other colours on top. So that takes a lot longer than just putting down initial marks and leaving them. Sometimes I like to let the canvas come through without treating it at all.

I use a range of brushes, ľ inch wide to 2 inches wide, but often I donít use brushes at all, I just stand over the painting and let the paint drip from the palette or splatter or whatever, and other times I tilt the painting up against a wall and let the paint run down so it forms kind of rivers or blobs.

I like to work with the painting on the floor so I can walk around it Ė you get a different perspective to a kind of oblique view point looking down on to it, that can be exciting. Or turning the picture upside down, is another way of getting the composition to work.

Painting Practice
Colour is an integral part of my painting practice. I rarely use colours straight out of the tube Ė instead I mix them. Like the structure or the format of the picture, the tones used are often prescribed by the initial marks that I make. So if I put down a big red slash, well then another colour that will resonate from that will just pop into my head and Iíll use that. So itís not as if I just sit down and think ďI want to make a red, green and blue paintingĒ itís much more spontaneous than that. Itís hard to say whether the colour determines the form or vice versa. The composition and the form are really important to me Ė Iím interested in the different relationships set up between shapes and borders and grids and blobs overlapping each other.

Abstract Compositions
I want to create fluid passages of painting which relate internally but also form part of the overall picture. I like breaking down the grid structure and then rebuilding it in a variety of ways. I try to achieve an effect of depth and a kind of hovering space by overlapping shapes, playing them off against each other as it were, so the eye can go into the picture as well as across it.

Lots of critics think Iím on a deliberate program to undermine modernism and male abstract artists Ė Iím not at all. I adore them and appreciate them and I just feel like in my work Iím extending the language of abstraction. Iím glad I am a woman doing abstract painting Ė there hasnít been a history. So I think itís an opportunity to extend on whatís gone before and develop that.

Interviewed by Mark Ashkanassy (in 2000).

© Discovery Media, 2000.
This interview is one of 28 taken from the ARN2 CD-ROM published by Discovery Media.

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