Interview with Lauren Brevner for “Menagerie”

Vancouver based artist Lauren Brevner is inspired by the rich culture of growing up with a mixed heritage. A self-taught artist, her mixed media compositions explore identity and self-acceptance, with stylistic elements of Japanese art and culture and reinventing the use of gold and silver leaf within her work. We’re excited to be showing Brevner’s latest body of work Menagerie in the Thinkspace Project room this month. In anticipation of the exhibition, our interview with Lauren Brevner explores her creative process, the foods she fell in love with in Osaka, New York, and her hometown along with the greatest lesson she learned from mentor Sin Nakayamal.

Join us for the opening of Menagerie Saturday, November 10th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work for Menagerie? What ideas or themes were you exploring?

LB: The term Menagerie is used to express my own experience as a female coming from a background of mixed heritage. I consider the portraits that I paint to be non-representational self-portraits. Each piece plays on the themes of captivity, assimilation, and seclusiveness, paired with visuals of exotic animals and patterns. I grew up with deep-rooted identity issues, the constant battle between seeking refuge within a racial group while still maintaining a true sense of self is something I think a lot of mixed race children battle. I wanted to represent these minorities as beautiful beings and portray them as strong, sensual and equal.

Kurobanai

SH: Who are the models in your pieces? Do you search for a particular look or does the model inspire the piece?

LB: Sometimes the models are real people but mostly they are an amalgamation of many different characters, pictures, and acquaintances I’ve encountered. I do have a Pinterest page where I gather images that usually spark an idea but most of the time the painting doesn’t end up looking like the reference I originally began with.

SH: Can you tell us about your apprenticeship with Sin Nakayamal? How did you acquire the apprenticeship? What is the greatest lesson you gained from the experience?

LB: I met Sin through Osaka’s version of craigslist. At the time, I was looking for a job as a barista and I found an ad that was looking for an intern at a multi-purpose cafe and gallery space. After I got the job and began working alongside Sin, I pretty much became his assistant. I helped him put together art shows, prepare for exhibitions, and just straight up make coffee. Looking back on it, the experience I gained was invaluable. Although I wasn’t learning how to paint, I was learning how to think like a creative and how to live an entrepreneurial lifestyle. The biggest thing I learned from him is that if you want to learn how to do something, don’t hesitate, just put yourself out there and try.

Ama

SH: How do you approach developing a new body of work and capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?

LB: The very preliminary stages of a show are both writing and image collection, basically a mood board. Whenever I have a thought relevant to what I’m doing I will jot it down in my notes app in order to slowly build up my ideas. I also have a sketch folder on Procreate with all my preliminary thumbnail ideas for the show. It’s hard to say where the idea for a show really comes from since it’s usually something that builds over time, however, I usually have one image that leads the show. This time around the first piece I created was ‘Kurobani’ which embodies most of what I was trying to say and therefore became my title piece.

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?

LB: Currently, I’m really excited to learn more about my heritage and my experience as a person of mixed ethnicity. I want to be able to translate this into my work and hopefully, other people will feel this connection. Most of my work thus far has been a journey leading up to this point so I am excited to delve deeper into my own experiences and see what comes from it.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?

LB: Sometimes I wish I could just paint, the mixed media portion structure to my work that I would like to distance myself from sometimes. On the flip side I think it gives my work a very distinctive style but I can see myself transitioning to a more traditional approach in the years to come.

Amarna

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece?

LB: The title piece Kurobani wasn’t necessarily the most challenging to paint but it was challenging to wrap my head around why I was painting it and what it meant to me. This is my first large portrait of a male, and more specifically the first portrait of someone with their back facing the viewer. I have always relied on the faces of my portraits to carry the emotional weight of whatever I was trying to convey in a piece so it was a challenge to create an emotive piece without showing his face. I’m very proud and happy with how this piece has turned out and I can see myself moving into a larger variety of compositions because of this in the near future. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to create something beautiful and different but also very meaningful to me.

SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?

LB: I would love the chance to collaborate with a fashion house specifically Gucci, Kenzo, Manish Aroura, Vivienne Westwood etc. A large majority of my inspiration comes from textiles and fashion culture so I would be very happy to see my work in conjunction with textiles or clothing design.

Maru

SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?

LB: SO MANY THINGS! Since I’m a mixed media artist you will find just about everything in my studio but my go-to materials are metal leaf, aqua size, brushes ( Windsor Newton for watercolor and anything that has a point for oil) Kroma paints if I’m using acrylics, a mixture of Windsor Newton, Holbein and Gamblin for oil, art resin, wooden panels, and sculpey, la doll and apoxie sculpt for sculpture. I miss sculpting and ceramics so I would love to install a kiln and an area for pottery in my studio!!

Sunflower

SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.

LB: I’m pretty exhausted after a show, and definitely the type that needs a break. This time I am traveling to Bali and Thailand for a month immediately after to get some serious R&R (although I will be painting a small mural out there!) My usual at home ritual is to switch mediums completely to fight off art block. It changes my perspective on my practice and gets me excited to create again (right now I’m playing around with quick gouache sketches for example)

SH: What is your favorite place to eat and what do you order in Osaka, New York, and Vancouver?

LB: I love to eat and try new restaurants so it’s always hard for me to pick one favorite. When I was in Osaka my host family always made delicious food but whatever Grandma was making was always my favorite. For New York, I would have to say this spot my brother took me to in midtown (though I can’t remember the name!) I love seafood and the grilled octopus salad there is to die for, pair that with their Lavender Grappa and you’re set!! In my hometown Vancouver one of my go-to’s is Guu the Japanese tapas style restaurant is a great place to grab a bite with friends. I usually order multiple items but don’t miss their daily feature as it never disappoints.

Lauren Brevner’s “Menagerie” in the Project Room November 10th – November 24th

Lauren Brevner – Menagerie

Opening Reception:
THIS Saturday, November 10 from 6-9PM in our project room

Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Lauren Brevner grew up in a mixed-heritage family rich with culture and inspiration. In 2009, she moved to Osaka, Japan in hopes of reconnecting with her roots. There, Lauren had the honor of apprenticing under renowned artist, Sin Nakayamal. It was through her mentor that she first began her work as an artist. Nakayamal was the inspiration that sparked her journey to self-taught fruition.

The composition of her paintings explore mixed-media through the use of oil, acrylic, and resin. This unique technical style is combined with a collage of Japanese chiyogami, yuzen, and washi paper on wooden panels. Her influence originates from the stylistic elements of traditional Japanese art and culture. She aspires to reinvent the eloquent tradition of using gold and silver leaf in art.

Lauren’s paintings primarily involve the interpretation of female portraiture. She plays with polychromatic layers; the figures within it existing in surreal and isometric spheres. The women embody strength and femininity through sombre silence. Their gaze a myriad narrative. Lauren Brevner seeks to create a commentary on the subject of women and their depiction in art throughout the ages. Her portrayal of women serves to empower rather than objectify: a reflection of the vitality of sensuality over sexuality.

Opening Reception of SWANK at Thinkspace Gallery

The opening reception of Swank on September 2nd debuted nine artists from the gallery’s roster, whose work and recognition are on the rise. Each brings their own unique stylistic and technical approach to their practice, and though they share loose affinities, the grouping demonstrates the diversity and latitude of the New Contemporary Movement. Michael Reeder, David Rice, Tran Nguyen, Wiley Wallace, Molly Gruninger, Alex Garant, Sean Norvet, Christopher Konecki, and Lauren Brevner were curated by the gallery for this exhibition as promising new voices to watch on their ascent.

 Please visit the Thinkspace Gallery website to view available work from SWANK,

Next Up at Thinkspace Gallery – “Swank” September 2 – 23, 2017

SWANK
GROUP SHOW
September 2 – September 23, 2017

Thinkspace is pleased to present Swank, a group show dedicated to showcasing nine artists from the gallery’s roster, whose work and recognition are on the rise. Each brings their own unique stylistic and technical approach to their practice, and though they share loose affinities, the grouping demonstrates the diversity and latitude of the New Contemporary Movement. Michael Reeder, David Rice, Tran Nguyen, Wiley Wallace, Molly Gruninger, Alex Garant, Sean Norvet, Christopher Konecki, and Lauren Brevner were curated by the gallery for this exhibition as promising new voices to watch on their ascent. Michael Reeder

Michael Reeder
Dallas-based painter Michael Reeder graduated with a BFA in painting from the School of Visual Arts in New York and works as both a fine artist and freelance graphic artist. Reeder combines figurative references with abstract motifs, graphic patterns, negative space, and an illustrative style to create concise and impactful compositions. Exploring the shifting of identities and the instability of the self as central themes, Reeder uses the portraiture element in his work as an armature around which visual signifiers are hung. The paintings begin with the same reference image of a stranger, rather than a particular individual, to emphasize the general universality of the themes, and to stress the alterable and transfiguring aspects of the human in flux. Reeder taps into a feeling of dislocation and absence as a trope for the volatility of the individual caught in the incoherence and discontinuity of the modern day. Psychologically provocative, Reeder’s paintings are thoughtful deconstructions of the fragmented self.

David Rice
David Rice is a Portland-based artist, illustrator, and designer. Having grown up in rural Colorado, Rice is deeply inspired by nature and its wildlife. The natural world figures prominently as a recurring theme in his detailed works, as he combines the human with the animal in playful and unexpected encounters. By individuating his animals as personified subjects rather than undifferentiated specimens, they take on new symbolic and narrative value as extended metaphors. Geometric patterns and graphic motifs are drawn from textiles and other decorative elements to tie his compositions together. These elements punctuate his works with moments of abstraction while also referencing contained, domestic human spaces in stark contrast to the limitlessness of the wild.

Tran Nguyen
Born in Vietnam, Tran Nguyen emigrated to the US with her family at the age of three. She completed a BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Interested in exploring the psychologically evocative potential of the surreal, she channels visual dreamscapes as a therapeutic means of investigating the mind’s potential to heal through imagery. Her practice is drawing-based with graphite and pencil figuring prominently in her works on panel as well as on paper. Delicate and softly diffused, highly detailed figurative elements in the works are set against expanses of vaguely defined space. Playing with shifts in scale and context, Nguyen allows her powers of free association to shape and turn her shadowy worlds.

Wiley Wallace
Wiley Wallace completed a BFA in intermedia arts at Arizona State University and an MFA from University of California, Santa Barbara. A painter with a metaphysical interest in surreal worlds and pseudo-science fiction themes, Wallace often depicts his own children as protagonists on the edge of unknown universes. At times eerie and even grotesque and others understated and subtle, his works combine a dizzying array of visual devices to denote suspension, transition, or immersion in alternate realities. At times realistic depictions deliquesce into abstract blurs of bright colors, while at others subtle apparitions make their way into otherwise unassuming everyday scenes. His ambiguous depictions feel like personal meditations on mortality, the existence, and dissolution of boundaries, and the presence, whether literal or philosophical, of worlds beyond.

Molly Gruninger
A graduate of Ball State University, Los Angeles-based Molly Gruninger is interested in exploring themes like camouflage, the contemporary role of technology in our society, identity, and the shifting nature of perception. At first glance, excessively smooth and dimensionally ambiguous, her figurative works appear to be digitally generated. Upon closer inspection, however, they are in fact highly detailed oil paintings on canvas. Exploring the idea of self-ornamentation, and by proxy the excessive nature of materialism and consumption in contemporary society, Gruninger pushes the artificiality of self-adornment to a literal point of complete synthetic conversion. In a compelling inversion of process, Gruninger creates photorealistic depictions of a seemingly digitally generated form, creating a subject that exists in some strange hyper-real limbo.

Alex Garant
Toronto-based artist Alex Garant creates portrait paintings with a combination of hyper-realistic painting techniques and a graphic aesthetic. Garant intends to overwhelm and saturate the viewer’s senses with an optical distortion, creating subjects that seem captured through multiple exposures. Using an alla prima technique in which layers of wet oil paint are applied over top wet under layers and executed in a single sitting, Garant creates hauntingly beautiful figures that seem to actually reverberate with frenetic energy and life, somehow caught off register between temporal dimensions or physical layers of reality.

Sean Norvet
Los Angeles-based artist Sean Norvet attended Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, graduating with a BFA in 2013. His unique take on portraiture relays a chaotic and satirical mash-up of cultural references. Distorting the human anatomy of his subjects to the point of total obliteration, his portraits become grotesque, clever and playful amalgams of skin, random objects, food, detritus, type, and cartoons, all parodying the more abhorrent and absurd aspects of American life. Norvet’s subjects become literal and observational reflections of their context and periphery. It’s as though the person’s face, identity, and corporeality are engulfed and consumed by the culture in which they’re immersed. Combining a photo-realistic painting technique with an excessively cartoonish and hyperbolic artificiality, Norvet seizes the viewer in a hallucinogenic distortion of portraiture.

Christopher Konecki
Sand Diego-based Christopher Konecki is a self-taught painter, muralist, sculptor, and installation artist. Drawing inspiration from his surrounding environment and an experimental penchant for the creation of new forms, Konecki creates works that harness a feeling of stylistic chaos and strategic balance. Interested in the reuse of found materials, he revitalizes public spaces and castaway objects to elevate them aesthetically and change the perception of their value. Natural imagery figures prominently in Konecki’s work as he explores the intersection of urban manmade spaces and architectures and the ubiquitous prevalence of technology alongside disproportionately scaled wildlife elements. This juxtaposition of worlds highlights their conflicted coexistence in the modern city and the absurdity of their tangential relationships. His palettes are often cool and subdued, an understated stylistic choice that refocuses attention on the dynamic interaction of the compositions’ disparate facets, and synergy of its parts.

Lauren Brevner
Vancouver-based artist Lauren Brevner explores the feminine in her mixed media portraiture. Using oil, acrylic, and resin, she incorporates Japanese chiyogami, yuzen, and washi papers through collage as well as gold and silver leafing, both traditional Japanese techniques, as an homage to her roots. In 2009, she moved to Osaka, Japan, to reconnect with her cultural heritage and ancestry, and this immersion has had a significant impact on her artwork. Inspired by 19th-century Japanese art, as well as Western European Art Nouveau and Symbolist painting of the same period, and modern abstraction of the early 20th century, Brevner’s work feels both contemporary and historically referential. Her use of flattened graphic space is offset by the detail of her delicately rendered portraits. Striving to re-appropriate the vantage point of the “gaze,” her work seeks to counter the objectification of the feminine, empowering her subjects as sensual and self-possessed entities.