Rebecca Brewer: Natural Horror
January 25 – April 19, 2020
Rebecca Brewer’s work straddles abstraction and representation to evoke fragmented memories and flowing organic forms. Natural Horror, the artist’s first solo museum presentation, features two recent bodies of work that reference expressionistic painting but employ craft materials and techniques. The exhibition title—drawn from a subgenre of horror films in which a natural force or creature poses a threat to humans—alludes both to the artist’s interest in the relationship between aesthetics and psychological affects and to the disintegrated botanical and bodily forms that appear in her works.
With meandering lines and acidic pops of color, Brewer’s large felted wool 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. The artist develops her compositions through an intuitive, improvisational process that is—by necessity of her felting method—slower and less immediate than painting, the medium in which she was trained. She is guided by research into the possibility of achieving “direct” or uncodified expression of inner states, including explorations of art therapy, somatization, psychoanalysis, and other avenues by which humans externalize their mental and emotional experiences.
Brewer has variously compared her scrims to debris-filled fishing nets and organs joined by connective tissue, conflating 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 the organic also characterizes the artist’s Live Resin works, in which stamped and embossed monoprints are framed in cast-resin trays. The drips and imperfections of the casting process give the frames a distressed, time-worn appearance, as if they were encrusted ocean flotsam. Further confounding material expectations, Brewer creates the “painterly” marks on the prints inside by sprinkling colored embossing powder on the surface and heating it to a hardened state.
Hovering at the threshold of recognition, Brewer’s work teases the mind’s impulse to identify recognizable shapes and discern hierarchies of information. Her vision of a disarticulated natural order mirrors a broader conceptual shift: a movement away from the human-centric perspective that places us outside or above nature and 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 a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design and an MFA from Bard College.