In the contemporary media climate – overwrought with tweets and live-feeds, links and newsflashes – oil painting can seem anachronistic, a simultaneously quaint and frivolous throwback to a former era of static imagery. The work of Aaron M Brown openly challenges that assumption, using traditional media to speak directly to the complex visual realities of today. In his layered body of work, painting becomes a language that is evolving with technology. Brown’s latest series confronts the realities of viewing in a digital era, but -beyond that- it attests to the continued alchemical power of images.
The paintings are photo-referent, but not dependant on the camera’s monocular viewpoint. Rather than concealing their means of illusion, they reveal tools of digital manipulation: cropping shields, transparencies, fills and filters. Seemingly disparate layers of visual imagery are hierarchically sorted and formally arranged. In this multifaceted work, simultaneity does not dilute the impact of images; it decants it. By arresting the movement of visual stimuli into concrete compositions, Aaron M Brown offers a respite for contemplation and connection. It is a rare chance to process.
In the theatrical painting ‘Borderland: Revisited,’ a vaguely academic room houses family heirlooms, tagged for resale. Two children gesture towards the center of the space, the boy’s countenance both framed and obscured by a semi-opaque rectangle. The exterior of a non-descript building is reflected in the surface of the painting, along with the face of a viewer that is not our own. In the midst of this dense, untenable environment, runs a figure first depicted by Eadweard Muybridge in the 1880s.
The suspended man is a product of Muybridge’s (then revolutionary) photographic technique of freezing motion. Now thawed and recast as a contemplative artifact of visual history, the man runs in a liminal space between seeing and recalling. The black-and-white figure is a fitting signifier of the on-going pursuit of ‘capturing’ an image, his perpetual effort embodying both the futility and the nobility of the artistic practice. In this painting, history is both reflection and projection.
The flattened geography of Aaron M Brown’s parallel world is ultimately asynchronous. Past, present, and future exist concurrently and create an archive of interconnected narratives. As viewers, we are left to excavate the layers and decipher their relational meaning; it is a process that invites self-examination, akin to analyzing the fragments of a particularly lucid dream.
Aaron M Brown’s paintings remind us that active viewing is always an interactive experience. They call upon fundamentally human forms of processing, exposing the fallibility and wonder of our corrupted memories and fragmented drives.