work / JAZZ 2013
Martin Browne Contemporary
June 27 - July 20
'Painting...I think it's like jazz'. Brian Eno
Jazz music, although difficult to define, is a mixture of European, African and Latin music traditions incorporating improvisation, polyrhythms and syncopation. Juxtaposed to form collective rhythms and countermelodies, the sounds become a cohesive whole when played together as a group. However as any enthusiast knows, when jazz is played live its most important element – improvisation – takes over. The original composition undergoes subtle or major intuitive changes depending on mood and the audience, creating exciting and essentially new arrangements.
JAZZ, my recent project, taps into these same core fundamentals – intuition, composition, appropriation, arrangement, spontaneity and, in particular, improvisation. The beginning reference point is the graphic vernacular of jazz album covers from the first half of the twentieth century, the era known as the ‘Jazz Age’. The original covers, sourced from Ebay and Secondspin, have been digitally manipulated by adding and subtracting, moving, enlarging, flipping and distorting various elements until what remains is a different arrangement, a newly composed album cover. The paintings in this project are based on these new translations. In some paintings the alterations are quite subtle, a changed logo or an added ‘sale’ sign, while in others the new cover bears little resemblance to the original and becomes something entirely new. For example, ‘Nina Simone – 9 Love Songs’ began life as a Beethoven album while ‘The Bix Beiderbecke Legend’ album cover is constructed almost entirely from elements found elsewhere.
These elements have been collated from a range of divergent sources which include other albums, cassettes, book covers and, in the case of ‘Miles Davis - Kind of Blue’, a car bumper sticker which shows a stylised Miles in blue silhouette playing his trumpet. The manipulation and re-interpretation of the original album covers produced exciting new visual mash-ups that borrow heavily from the ethos of jazz by re-interpreting or improvising on existing formats. This is a major progression from my earlier work. The reason behind this was a growing frustration with the limited scope afforded by working within the defined borders of existing readymade abstract elements presented by the real world.
These considerations are also reflected in the choice of support material, in this case used painter’s drop sheets and canvas tarpaulins. The canvas has literally been stitched together. Often, where repairs have been made, separate (but similar) material has been chosen, creating slight colour shifts across the picture plane and thus adding to its constructed history. The stains, paint splatters, incidental (improvised) markings and imperfections in the found canvas provide a readymade narrative that converges with the painted image, adding further layers to the work.
The result is a series of paintings that hopefully defy categorization, containing elements that are factual and imagined, abstract and figurative. They exist as a series of moments composed in space and time, just as great jazz moments are intended. As the legendary Dave Brubeck once stated “There’s a way of playing safe, there’s a way of using tricks and there’s the way I like to play, which is dangerously, where you’re going to take a chance.... in order to create something you haven’t created before.”
* for an earlier work which forecasts JAZZ see The Shilo Project
Music Project - 2012-13
This series of re-worked album covers continue Peter Atkins' exploration into what he describes as Readymade Abstraction with the appropriation and deconstruction of a series of record album covers from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Peter first began reworking album covers in the 1990s and it has remained an intermittent theme in his practice. These albums, mostly instrumental and jazz records were sourced from the USA via the World Wide Web. This way of collecting and collating material by utilizing the internet is something the artist has been investigating as part of his practice since 2001. He describes this process as being both part and apart from the world – simultaneously voyeur and participant.
The existing covers have been transformed by covering all existing text, logos and incidental imagery with similar coloured cardboard, dissected from other album covers – carefully selected from local charity store discount bins (John Cougar Mellencamp, Barbra Streisand, Shakin' Stevens and ABBA amoung others all contributed to the deconstruction process). The worn, marked cardboard and subltle colour shifts seen in the different tones of black add to the layering of narrative becoming a mash-up of visual and material histories. What remains is an image focused on the essential readymade abstract elements of the simple spot patterns. These reworked record albums reveal something entirely new, yet somehow remain strangely familiar.
Martin Brown Contemporary | Press Release
JAZZ | The Art Life "Startling contemporary abstraction" Andrew Frost
Online Catalogue LINK