2006 Page Updated with New Paintings

The 2006 Page has been updated with the four pictures painted in Newfoundland: Say It Aint So, I Have Looked, I Know, Apparition, and Cove. (entire review below...)

Stretching boundaries

September 1, 2006
By Karla Hayward, Special to The Telegram

Abraham Brewster paints bodies. Naked bodies. Bodies distorted and elongated and entwined among one another. They are most often faceless, headless and anonymous but, like most great art, they evoke deep feelings in the viewer. Complicated feelings, but deep ones.

Brewster is a figurative painter. Currently New York-based, he spent much of his youth in Cape Breton [actually, New Brunswick--A.B.] and has been in residence at the Pouch Cove Foundation since June.

His works can be disturbing at times. They are tense and painstaking. But they are, without doubt, beautiful. They are luminous. Brewster achieves this effect by avoiding certain areas of the canvas, right from his first brush stroke, showing a determined foresight. Each looks as though it is only lightly glossed with a layer or two of paint. But as Brewster points out, each piece has up to 20 layers of paint, each thin as milk.

“I start by making the canvas like glass because I need that to make them glow — I paint slowly and deliberately, there’s a lot of work that goes into the basic building of the paintings."

Brewster has an element of the scientist or mathematician to him.

His works are geometric, where a 45-degree angle drawn from a corner takes you dead centre on a torso vaulting over the edge. They evoke thoughts of networks, traffic systems, computer chip intricacies. Heavily influenced by technology, the works are still about human interconnectedness.

“There’s an element of the virtual to this. I mean, we’re all projecting ourselves out into this ether that doesn’t really exist. These are new ways of being, new ways of thinking, new ways of looking forward to a solution that we don’t really understand.”

One painting, Say It Ain’t So, is different from the others. It is a singular scene that has been pulled apart, whereas the others contain multiple bodies. Here there are two legs, two arms, a torso and a head. A stool, a gold floor and a dead hare finish out the scene.

“What’s interesting to me here is that this is a single scene that has been pulled apart and examined in different ways and maybe at different times. Because there is an interesting tension between the implication of time and the implications of a static scene,” says Brewster of the work.

In addition to the singularity of the scene, there is also the issue of the intricately painted dead hare draped inside the work.

According to Brewster, he doesn’t particularly want to explain its significance — if there even is one — but, he does speak broadly to the idea of testing a work.

“I think artistic projects that acknowledge their fictionality, or acknowledge their weakness, or the weakness of the fact that they are fictions — the fact that they simply are coloured dirt, oil and canvas, to acknowledge that [fictionality] in the middle of the project, gives it credibility and tests it. You’re throwing a grenade into it — or, in this case, a rabbit."

The newer works, completed in Pouch Cove, appear to have been influenced by the place. In one — I Have Looked, I Know — the base colour is the blue of the ocean on a summer’s day.

Two others — Apparition and Cove — take a dramatic departure with a hazy greyness reminiscent of the fog-bound days Brewster experienced here. These works are also different in their tonality. Rather than being tersely extended to the wrap around the canvas edge, the figures fade away. A gentler exit.

Brewster acknowledges the impact the weather in Pouch Cove had on him.

“The atmosphere in Pouch is almost graspable when the fog rushes in. You can almost hold onto it. There are times when you can’t see anything at all. There’s a particular vulnerability and a comfort to that.”

Abraham Brewster: New Work can be seen until Sept. 25 at 141 Military Rd., above the Flower Studio. Visit www.abrahambrewster.com to find out more.

[Bracketed additions to text are mine. --A.B.]