Abstract Brutalism is a continuation of a line of creative enquiry I have been pursuing since 2008. As a Landscape Architecture student, I was introduced to the revolutionary 20 year project of New Babylon by the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys.
The monumental, fictional structures designed to accommodate humanities theoretical evolution into Homo Ludens (based on the 1938 book of the same name by cultural theorist Johan Huizinga), was the catalyst for my obsession with Brutalist architecture.
Homo Ludens is the notion that humanities inevitable iteration as a species is that of the ‘Leisured’ human. The theory suggests that as technology marches on, AI & automation replaces human endeavour in the workplace. As a result, humans must occupy their time with more recreational pursuits.
New Babylon occupies an unusual position in that it is regarded as both an artistic & an architectural project. Paradoxically, it conveys the potential as a utopian & a dystopian vision for humanity. It offers contradictory glimpses of a wonderful & simultaneously terrifying vision of the future.
I regard Brutalist architecture the ideal, realized embodiment of New Babylon’s vision for Home Ludens
As an student of modernist design theory & Stoic philosophy, these brooding monoliths of the urban landscape fascinate me. Brutalist architectures physical magnetism emanates a powerful, threatening presence. The attraction is not one of traditional aesthetic (to their credit, they cannot be described as pretty), rather, they exude an over-whelming sense of unapologetic gravitas that makes the built environment the dwell in vibrate. The British social commentator Johnathan Meades describes Brutalist buildings as “…architecture for grown-ups”. It is this sense of physical presence that I strive for in my paintings.
I started to record the difficult aesthetics of Brutalist architecture to visually represent detachment & 'placelessness'. Although my work is abstract, the architectural references are illustrated by the fictional structures I create.
The process I employ is a mix of additive & reductive mark-making. I apply layers of colour which are sanded back. I scrutinize the surface, masking out areas to salvage, then repeat the process. It is an on-going curation of accidents.
My own working paradox is that of working in two dimensions, whilst drawing from three dimensional theory & discipline. My ambition is to convey the sense of vibrating presence Brutalist architecture emits via the two dimensional plane of the ‘canvas’. This sense of presence is seen in the work of Clyfford Still & Mark Rothko. Both are examples of artists whose work dominate the spaces they occupy.
The nomenclature of my work is taken from Joy Division song lyrics. The lyrics convey a sense of unease & latent isolation, which compliments my ambition for Abstract Brutalism, with Joy Division providing the sound track.