In understated, mixed-media works merging collage, painting, drawing, and photography, conceptual artist Brad Grievson explores how the meaning of materials and images is continually transformed by the ways in which they are used, accumulated, seen, and circulated. He often works with remnants from other projects—pages torn from magazines, pieces of fabric, scraps of paper—incorporating them into new compositions, in which they appear, in his words, “suspended [in a] state between partial and total destruction.” This is apparent in Grievson’s “Shutters” series (2014), in which he affixes scraps of black casement fabric to white canvases in patchwork patterns. Ordinarily used for making such utilitarian things as curtains, tablecloths, and upholstery, the fabric is transformed on the canvas into rough-edged geometric shapes in a minimalist composition, or into obscuring shutters, blocking access to the familiar surface of the canvas.
Brad Grievson (b. 1986, Milton Keynes, UK) studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, and studied his MA at the Royal Academy Schools, 2010-2013. He lives and works in London.
Brad Grievson is a conceptual artist known for his mixed media works, combining collage, painting, drawing, photography and digital reproduction. Initially inspired by the flat aesthetic of cartoon and pop culture, Grievson’s pieces generally appear to occupy a single optical plane. However, he challenges this aesthetic through his use of collage, incorporating multiple layers. This gives his works an unusual sculptural presence which exists in tandem with their apparent simplicity.
Grievson explores how the meaning of a material or image is continually transformed by the way in which it is accumulated, deployed, seen and circulated. Grievson often works with remnants from other projects—pages torn from magazines, pieces of fabric and scraps of paper—incorporating them into new compositions, in which they appear, in his words, “suspended [in a] state between partial and total destruction”. By re-cycling the remnants from earlier creative processes, Grievson’s work becomes delicately auto-biographical.
The conceptual implications of his collage-work is apparent in Grievson’s ‘Shutters’ series (2014), in which he affixes scraps of black casement fabric to white canvases in patchwork patterns. The fabric is transformed on the canvas into rough-edged geometric shapes in a minimalist composition: shutters which block the viewer’s access to the familiar surface of the canvas.
The phenomenon of obstruction is similarly apparent too in ‘Pullout’ (featured). Much of the canvas is masked, covered by overlapping layers of fabric all competing to envelope it. We are left unsure as to whether this is a protective or repressive act.
However, the work’s most intriguing unknown field lies not between canvas and fabric but between the patches themselves. The gentle, impressionable nature of the material obliges it to follow and reflect the outline of the piece beneath it: the points of overlap become clear and the framework of the piece becomes transparent. Yet, despite being so very aware of its presence, we are unable to see the piece of fabric once it dips behind the hood of another. We, the viewer, are shut out. Out of an almost perverse curiosity, our attention is drawn to the to that which we cannot see. Despite being seemingly two dimensional and optically flat, ‘Pullout’ is unusually sculptural in the way in which it command’s and leads the viewer’s attention into another plane.
The fascination with layering is central to Grievson’s work. He is famously intrigued by the particularities of differing surfaces and is known to combine these different presences in multi-media compositions. Grievson elevates the scope of the traditional collage and uses the layering of different materials to experiment with the cumulative effect of their various eccentricates.
The artist views the interaction between the materials in his work almost like a dialogue. He compares this collaboration with a scene from ‘Snoopy come home’: “It is a scene about language and communication, interpretation and representation. I was thinking a lot about how my work communicates differently depending on how the materials and formal decisions are arranged”. The influence of cartoon and pop-culture can be identified in his optically flat aesthetic and his occasionally playful humour.
Grievson notes that he is not just interested in the appearance of the final piece but also in the process and qualities of the art-making its self. His works typically draw attention to the artistic process in two ways: first, Grievson’s penchant for mixed media pays homage to a range of traditionally distinct artistic disciplines and creative processes. His artistic progression subtlety pays tribute to the expanse of mediums available to the modern-day artist. Secondly, his practice of layering produces work in which this artistic process is ultimately very overt. We regard the collage with an almost naïve familiarity; the simple cutting, placing and sticking process is comfortable, tangible and identifiable. Unlike so much other conceptual art from the last century (from minimalist sterility to post-modernist confusion), we are intuitively able to comprehend the constructive process of layering two dimensional substances. Grievson capitalises on the familiarity of his process such that his pieces become a tribute to, as well as a product of, their creation.
The artist has also been known to use digital manipulation to play with scale: intimate every-day features such as the surface of a river or a sunbather’s back are blown up, out of proportion. The images distort in the process and what was once a personal detail is transmuted into a bold, abstracted presence. This practice allows Grievson to cheekily juxtapose modesty and gregariousness – the ordinary and the gargantuan.
A SERIES OF NOTABLE SERIES:
This series was inspired by the 1972 cartoon ‘Snoopy come home’. Both the animation and the artistic series serve as a linguistic milestone for their respective creators: for the first time, ‘Snoopy’ speaks and Grievson uses words in his work.
Grievson also notes that he was inspired by abstract film makers and the aesthetic of the American avant-garde ; “I was also looking at Robert Breer at lot, particularly works like ‘69’ (1969)”.
The artist transfers photocopied pieces of cardboard and drawings of construction wood onto red monochromatic foundations. The images appear almost to recall an abstracted form of the graphic novel.
Grievson establishes a playful commentary on the artistic medium : in this series, modern, digital media is assuming the aesthetic of wood, perhaps the most iconic traditional material.
As in his earlier show ‘Stray hairs’, we continue to see the influence of animation and two-dimensional pop imagery in these works. The artist notes, “It seemed relevant to be looking at animation because I was thinking about how my own works were organised as flat images and how works formally develop from one to the next.”
Brad Grievson’s later collage works also evoke broad-sheet newspapers by mirroring their the measurements and format. The broadsheet features in the artist’s studio, used to uses to prepare the space for working during an informal process of composition that involves laying newspaper along the floor. Grievson notes:
“I was interested in the doubly, but very differently, representative gestures of the tearing of the paper and the printer-like straight lines which composed the drawings. I find it interesting that newspapers are simultaneously very highly considered and designed documents, which are have particular styles, content, adopted political stances etc., and at the same time constitute a huge body of paper material that finds its way into different kinds of uses and situations as a type of lowest-of-the-low, bricolage material. They’re interesting to use because they straddle image and object in that way.”