Artist Reviews

Jan Brandt Hybridity: Swell Gallery 

Kim (Fieders) Tibet's, 2016  

Folks - Its amazing. 

Countless hand-stitched textile pieces come together in 3D organic ecosystems that evoke a sense of continual growth. 

References such as culture growth in a petri dish, microscopic imagery, underwater or tropic environments, or other biological occurrences, allow you to get lost in these intricate assemblages and relish the impact of their scale. It feels as if you were shrunk down to fit inside an ecosphere you could otherwise only imagine. 

The "crafty" materials and techniques used in this work provide a sense of familiarity and comfort that make the viewer feel at home. This is accentuated by the upcycled nature of many of the textiles that Jan uses. 

This show is really fun and colorful and wonderful. I can't wait to show it to you all on Friday!


Jan Brandt on Salvage: order‐of‐things, and usefulness

Benjamin Gardner, 2011

For an intimate knowledge of materials, an artist must live with any given material for some time. Buying materials does not make one knowledgeable. Jan Brandt's recent paintings show this knowledge of the complexity a material can hold‐‐latex house paint, fabric, and general studio detritus‐‐and are created by using the secondary purpose of each material (house paint is indeed intended to be used for houses, not for "paintings" or "artwork"). The reason for this alternative use of materials appears to be simple and economical, but a deeper understanding of why Brandt and other artists are invested in the reimagining of materials and their use will provide a conceptual foundation for artists for quite some time to come. 

The act of creation, especially in the studio of an artist, produces remnants that seem useless and a mere by‐product of the primary purpose of a material. Brandt's work utilizes these remnants, pieces, and parts and assembles them into something new and to be discovered. Not only does this align with contemporary trends of up‐cycling, reusing, and reclaiming; it also helps define the parameters of the materials for the viewer (when something can be used as something else) and expands Brandt's personal understanding of the usefulness of a material. Perhaps most importantly, it imparts Brandt's history as an artist and maker into her seemingly abstract work‐‐a direct link into Brandt's previously used materials assembled into a living archive of what has come before in her studio practice. 

The physicality of Brandt's paintings create a surface that also alludes to a longer sense of time and process: her paintings are both literally and metaphorically tied to the human understanding of layers. In a geological sense this manifests itself as the layers of earth on which we walk every day. Other forms of layering are much closer to our experience in our bodies and skin. Anything that has a surface can have layers, and Brandt's paintings are born from what is underneath. What is underneath the surface of her paintings holds just as much meaning as what is visible as the surface. 

We often think of things of their usefulness, yet usefulness is always linked to context of our immediate needs. With this work, Brandt changes the context of how something can be used and opens usefulness to include a conceptual and symbolic attachment to the pieces that are left over. The paintings, then, move between physical mounds of information and transcendent pieces of painted ephemera to develop a chronology of the creative life. 



Jan Brandt’s exhibition Five Acres

Benjamin Gardner, October 2014

There are often clear lines drawn between nostalgia, memory, and trauma. I would argue that those lines are about as clear as mud and the reality of these emotional states are rarely independent of one another. Jan Brandt’s exhibition Five Acres is also a testament tot eh murk of the coming of ago archetype and realizing the necessity of this complex relationship between painful memories, growing up, and remembering the past.

The title of the exhibition reminded me of Maurice Kains’ 1973 book on small farm management and self sustainability. Not only does the title fit in terms of the work in this exhibition being largely about Brandts’ time on a small acreage in Illinois but it also addresses the ability of visual art to reference, symbolize, and mean something about the past. Brandt is working-metaphorically and literally, with the materials at hand-at piecing together an important part of her development of self-hood.

Images and objects like Brandt’s work in the exhibition can, in some senses, become vehicles of nostalgia, memory, and trauma. I am not talking about catharsis-in which the images or objects actually help, relieve, or cure the maker-but rather sewn together pieces of paper that carry some meaning (in the way that they are assembled, the act of sewing, the offhanedness) of an ineffable state of being. We may find moments or durations of time in our lives that are particularly troubling but the feelings and emotions are not fixed and are not separated form memories and nostalgia. Brandt’s work seems to come from this place for me- a difficult, pivotal, and formative point in her life that I can relate to my own experiences of growing up.

The small farm, as pastoral scene, is romanticized in our society, as being independent or having independence; self-sustainability in my experience relies on communitarian principles (primarily that individuality is related to community relationships). Without others, individuality cannot be developed and has no context. This is part of the strength of Brandt’s use of collage and the act of placing multiple different pieces together to form on totality.

Marking art in a studio, too, can be a lonely task, and one that seems to be done independently of others until there is a public exhibitions. The exhibition of works, then, provides the artist some sense of community. Brandt’s work undoubtedly deals with intensely personal memories in rural isolation and yet they are now a part of a community in which we, as viewers, can contemplate and comprehend.