Drawing on the histories and methods of psychoanalysis, art therapy, and expressionistic painting, Rebecca Brewer’s work straddles the boundary between abstraction and representation to evoke fragmented memories and flowing organic forms. Natural Horror, the Vancouver-based artist’s first solo museum presentation, features recent felted wool “scrims” as well as embossed enamel monoprints in cast resin frames—two bodies of work that operate in the idiom of painting but employ materials and techniques associated with non-canonical craft practices. The exhibition title—a reference to a subgenre of horror films in which a natural force or creature poses a threat to humans—alludes to both the artist’s interest in the relationship between aesthetics and psychological affects, and to the disintegrated botanical and bodily forms that appear within her works.
With meandering lines and acidic pops of color, Brewer’s large textile scrims are made using a labor-intensive wet-felting method in which masses of wool fibers are embedded in the gridded threads of silk gauze. Brewer develops their compositions through an intuitive process that is—by necessity of her felting method—slower and less immediate than painting, the medium in which she was trained. This approach dovetails with the artist’s exploration into the possibilities of “direct” expressionistic visualization of inner states, including research into synesthesia, psychedelic experience, and tropes of therapeutic art-making.
Brewer has variously compared her scrims to debris-filled fishing nets and organs attached by connective tissue, pointing to the ways in which she seeks to conflate the grid’s art historical associations—as a formal device and means of structuring information—with its messier manifestations in the physical world. Play with analogies between the artificial and organic also characterizes the artist’s Live Resin works, in which embossed monoprints on vellum are framed in cast-resin trays. The drips and imperfections of the casting process give the frames a crusty, time-worn appearance, as if they were mildew-layered ocean flotsam. Further confounding material expectations, the “painterly” prints inside, were created by sprinkling colored embossing powder on the surface and heating it to a hardened state.
Brewer’s work teases the mind’s impulse to find referents in indeterminate shapes and discern hierarchies of information. Her vision of a disarticulated natural order mirrors an important conceptual shift: a movement away from the human-centric perspective that places “man” outside of or above nature, toward one in which we are enmeshed in a delicate web of matter, energies, and beings.
Rebecca Brewer (Canadian, b. 1983, Tokyo, Japan) lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. She has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Oakville Galleries, Ontario; Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver; and Exercise, Vancouver. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery; Simon Fraser University Galleries, Vancouver; Marcelle Alix, Paris; and Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff. Brewer received an MFA from Bard College in 2013, and a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2007. She was the winner of the 2011 RBC Canadian Painting Competition.