Interview with Katie Brennan on OBJECTOFCONTEMPLATION

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In October 2012, I did an interview with Montreal based artist and blogger Lesley Anderson.

Here is our conversation:

KATIE BRENNAN

from http://objectofcontemplation.com/2012/10/23/katie-brennan/   (unfortunately Lesley has ended this project and the website is no longer available).

LA: Your work appears to make brush stroke and line central to your practice. Was this an evolution or have you always been interested in painting this way?

KB: Looking back, it’s always been an integral part of my work – whether I was fully aware of it at times or not. It’s shifted around a bit. At first, it was just about line – hard, graphic ones that showed little or no brush strokes. But as things have progressed, the brush stroke became visible, as did my hand and this visibility of the performative quality of painting has become as integral as the lines themselves. Seems like a much more honest way of painting to my way of thinking. You can see where I stumbled a bit or where I hit a really sweet line and left a virtuosic kind of mark behind.

LA: I like that you mention the performative in relation to painting, when we generally think of painting as an unveiling of work made in isolation. Your way of working, in particular, leaves behind breadcrumbs for the eye to trace and we see your overlapping, your successes, your back tracking and the occasional misstep. Do you regard this history as a kind of narrative? There seems to me a connection between linear mark making and time.

KB: I suppose so. More so it brings to mind a piece of writing by Jan Verwoert on the work of Tomma Abts. He talks about how process, intention and final product all form together into a kind of closed circuit where the painting cannot exist in the form it does without all of these components. So I guess I would say I that I see the so-called performative narrative as a series of necessary steps that are part and parcel of how the piece came to be and what it is now; they cannot be separated. I mean, sure the lines denote the length of time they each took to draft, but then a kind of “endless” time also exists in the work simultaneously. That time where the piece is just itself as it is in that moment and the time it took to make becomes irrelevant.

LA: This idea of “endless” time embodied in painting is kind of idealistic – as though thoughts and marks are suspended in or possibly outside of ‘real’ time. It is as if your paintings allow space to pause. There’s also an aspect of escapism there, no?

KB: Painting, and art making in general, has always been about escape for me – although I tend to use words like “catharsis” or “flow” or even “meditation” to describe it. I’m always chasing after that moment when I lose myself to the making – when time either seems infinitely short or infinitely long, where I just ‘know’ what to do and do it. There’s no real conscious, logical thought there – just magic. The other aspect of this is that I see my paintings as their own beings. They mark a particular moment in my life, in my art making. I always think about Clyfford Still in this regard. He talked a lot about letting his paintings stand on their own and letting them declare themselves to the world. So when paintings are a thing in themselves, they become a part of a time beyond me.

LA: Much of your work relies on the singular strokes as subject matter and admittedly I see your work as predominantly abstract. Your most recent works however move in between abstraction and representations of the natural world (skies, water). I see you flirting with representation and realize that it may have never really left your work. What is your relationship to motif?

KB: Motif is my saving grace. It is the thing that allows me to “flirt” with representation but stay separate from it. I’ve been an abstract painter even before I really knew I was one. So it’s more that abstraction has never really left my work, than that representation has. In fact, I recently reworked a painting that went a little too far into pictorial representation. I had known something wasn’t quite right about it, but it wasn’t until I was doing a studio visit with a fellow painter that the level of representation was pointed out to me as the thing that was off. It was such a simple realization, but I’ve never contended with it before as this is the most representationally I’ve ever painted.

This interview was conducted over a series of email exchanges during the month of October, 2012.