Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Atmospheric touches were given in flax

A Dreamy summertime visit to see Lewis Brander's haptic skyscape paintings

Tell me about the Athenian sky


It is pure and wide. So blue it almost scares me.




With clouds placed to laugh at us. They make us believe we are not alone.




My own memories of Greece (Athens and Majorca) are foggy. Years have passed since fun work and post-teen trips, so I cast an eye to my Insta archive hoping to conjure some hazy rememberings. Some abstract form found in the recesses of my recollection. But nothing much appears. 


Estelle, my Athenian runaway, tell me about the Athenian sky [please]. 


As wafts of dust drift on the wind, big city meets sky and makes it it's own. 

It's puzzling how this big city is made by yet holds the sky. 


There is grace in this touch:

 Matter caressing/caressed by sky, 

by blue, recollections taking form in oily washes. 

No slick sheen. 

It's hazy, it's haptic.


The Athenian sky, framed by olive branches and TV antenna, by the walls of an ancient theatre and by clothes drying in the open.


Framed, not fixed, not captured.


Evacuated, transparent, invisible. So whole.

Lewis Brander, Vardaxoglou Gallery, installation view.

Lewis Brander at Vardaxoglou Gallery, brings together a range of humble skyscapes - some of which gesture to some earthly place beneath - completed by the artist over the last two to three years. Bare of any frivolous neo- or classical referents, Brander’s skies arrive, in their close box frames, as gestural washes of pigment, as memory traces caressed into visible recollection by board, linen, flax. The earthly tone used in each scape do not describe nor define a place as such. Rather, these subtle swells of oil paint convey the artist's own recollection of times spent beneath and in awe of the blue through pink skies of Greece and London. Echoing the olive branches and TV antenna which frame that 'pure and wide [...] excavated, transparent, invisible' expanse, 'so blue' it evokes some sense of fearful sublimity, these two geographic masses provide the earthly hands that hold Brander’s memories, supporting their painterly life. 


As a lover of the haptic - of the affective touch and hold allowed for in the most capacious of artworks - I am drawn to the paintings included in this exhibition where some illusionary opacity collapses. That is, where the division between sky and city (or) landscape dissolves; where the horizons of medium and support, as well as body and space, blur through improvisational grace. Variations of Light (mid summer), a pearl-toned window marred with smudges of oil that bleed and breathe into one another, is just one example where the material supports of Bander’s compositions jam their way into their paintings space, bringing with their intrusion an affective energy so loosely bound and unbound, here, in the dimpled grain of the creamy flax. 

Lewis Brander, Variations of Light (mid summer), 2019-2021, oil on flax, 27 x 32cm

The way in which Variations of Light’s backing surface holds Brander’s thin layers of oil not only gives the painting a new sense of physicality but imbues the scene with a sense of movement. It is as if a soft summer breeze has just swept some ancient Athenian sand into the square space in Soho from where I write with (borrowed) memories about the sky in its near and distant apparitions, feeling not alone.



Toby Üpson 

with thanks to Estelle Renaud for her generous input



Lewis Brander 
Vardaxoglou Gallery, London 

13 July – 13 August 2022

No comments:

Post a Comment