Veteran Bay Area artist Christopher Brown paints scenes drawn from memory. For more than 30 years, Brown’s large canvases have been populated with remembered figures, objects and vistas that the artist continually reuses. Many of the images emanate from photographs that Brown has taken over the years; many reside only in the artist’s own recollection.
Although Brown is primarily a figurative artist, many of his paintings involve formal examinations of relations of scale and depth. Space in Brown’s canvases is often irrational, an almost dream-like landscape where scale and distance fail to cohere. Brown’s collages of memory images and photographic records converge in irrational, even surrealistic juxtapositions — confounding representation and abstraction and testing the boundaries between pictorial modes.
Brown obsessively works and reworks his images, painting over large areas of his canvases to redefine colors, objects and distances. Spark catches Brown in his studio, hard at work on a large painting of a building that will be the centerpiece for a solo show at San Francisco’s John Berggruen Gallery. Inspired by the artist’s tenure in New York in the mid-1990s, the painting depicts an immense apartment block that entirely fills the canvas. Brown painstakingly fills in each of building’s windows, continually changing the shading and color tones.
Midway through his painting, Brown decides to fill a section of the image with a photographically rendered stampede of horses that appear to charge from the picture’s surface toward the building, confusing the building’s assertion of space and stability within the image. The artist continues to work on the painting until the day of the show.
For Brown, exhibitions are rare moments when his normally solitary practice of making paintings gives way to social interactions, wherein his work is exposed to public view. The show is an opportunity for the painter to see his images anew, to experience his own expression reflected back at him.
Christopher Brown was born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Brown earned his B.F.A at the University of Illinois and his M.F.A at the University of California, Davis. He has shown his work in galleries across the United States and is represented in several museum collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.