Angela Brennan Essay


Published Wednesday, 2 January 2002

Lots of critics think I'm on a deliberate program to undermine modernism and male abstract artists - I'm not at all. I adore them and appreciate them and I just fee like in my work I'm extending the language of abstraction. I'm glad I am a woman doing abstract painting.

Angela Brennan - Spades of nebulae Image: Spades of nebulae: the last three under the day, 122 x 107cm; oil on canvas; 1998

Lots of critics think I'm on a deliberate program to undermine modernism and male abstract artists - I'm not at all. I adore them and appreciate them and I just feel like in my work I'm extending the language of abstraction. I'm glad I am a woman doing abstract painting.

Brennan is a contemporary Australian abstract painter who acknowledges the history of this style of painting but also wished to be an active catalyst in its evolution. Her work is a conceptual and stylistic development of the abstract expressionist works of the 1950's (Motherwell, Pollock, Marden and De Kooning. It is also linked stylistically to work of the the Australian colour field painters, first seen in the the exhibition The Field in 1968, featuring Robert Rooney, Michael Johnson, David Aspen and Sydney Ball.

The discordant colours suggest to the viewer a sense of restlessness. Spontaneity and an intuitive response to colour and mark making directs Brennan's approach to painting, and the composition is governed by her response to the painting as it develops rather than a planned exercise.

By Craig Malyon

Questions on the Artist

  • Brennan suggests "that she approaches her art making in a highly personal manner" dealing with a more intuitive response rather than formal considerations to her painting. Discuss aspects of her art making, making reference to the subjective frame.
  • Colour is an important element in her paintings - select one artist from the following list that also considered colour important to their art making and evaluate the importance of colour in the practice - Wassily Kandinsky, Sonia Delaunay, Franz Marc, Jules Olitski, Yves Klien.
  • Do you think Brennan's paintings reflect a feminine quality? Why?
  • Write a critical analysis on one of Brennan's paintings (refer to the structural/subjective/postmodern aspects of the work).
  • Brennan's paintings are a re-examination of the activities of abstract expressionism, she recontextualises the work to take on a sense of humour and utilises irony to critique the seriousness placed on this historic style. In this manner her work reflects a postmodern approach to artmaking. Do you agree? Give reasons for your response?

Artists Connections

Historical Contemporary
Robert Motherwell Helga Groves
Kenneth Nolan David Rankin
Morris Louis Paul Partos
Helen Frankenthaler Allan Mitelman
Wassily Kandinsky Tim Maguire
Sonia Delaunay Queenie McKenzie
Mark Rothko ADS Donaldson

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