Location: Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Web site: http://www.janbrandt.carbonmade.com
Description of work: Repetition and patterning using bits of dried house paint.
Statement: 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 the 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 on the surface. We often think of things in terms of their usefulness, yet usefulness is always linked to the 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.