The What is Painting? Project: Featuring Phyllis Bramson

What is Painting? Norbert Marszalek

I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.

This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.

What is Painting?
Featuring Phyllis Bramson

A painter, through and through… but like some painters, I mostly hold that notion in my hands. Meaning, I approach painting with some genuine wariness and it always feels like I haven’t a clue about what to do next or how to make my painting work! I actually breathe a sigh of relief after each completed painting. How did it finally get completed?

What is this about, why the self inflicted drama about something I truly believe in, enjoy talking about, teaching and looking at? I have concluded that personally, it is about some sort of visual thinking, a philosophy of being and about a life lived. A search for my own authenticity; which includes a balance between materiality, problem solving and unpredictability that allows the painting a “voice” as well. Because in a painting, every move, thought and gesture shows up. So what painting has to offer – is one’s consciousness. I don’t mean that it is all about the gesturing push and pull of paint, rather the notion that painting isn’t ONLY about materiality!

I have never made a painting that didn’t include some aspect of figuration, figuration that also uses abstract moves to push it along. Painting that comes from memory and invention, something “other”, independent and self-determining and using figuration as a statement of self identity which provides a narrative portal that lets go of the literal and rational levels of meaning. Scenarios of complicated desire that can be uproariously irreverent, images at times that are overtly kitsch, in a decorative setting, dissolving into a realm of suggested possibilities.

I have continually contemplated why my work must project desire and the need for the viewer to have all their senses alerted, particularly eroticizing their eyes, wanting my paintings to look back at the viewer with sensuous pleasure. Using narratives which often project an eroticized euphoria, mediating between the painting and the viewer… often playing with taboos which take place in “gardens of pleasure”. In a lush overcharged atmosphere and a palette of mostly nuclear color, I am a visual satirist, ruminating about the peccedellos of love, desire, nostalgia and the terrible melancholy of loss.

My favorite book is Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Flaubert had an idiosyncratic view of the world, he stated that seduction and betrayal are an artists ethical necessity. He wrote of this not without irony, that in one’s art, “moralist thinking” is not necessarily virtuous or useful.

Monica Ramirez – Montagut Senior Curator of the San Jose Museum of Art stated that “Painting continues to be a sublime, visceral, witty facilitator of self-expression. Appealing to every aspect of the human condition…. (culling) images of the personal, memories (often childhood) and the comic tragedy of human existence.”

the secret life of people who care  Phyllis Bramson, The Secret Life of People Who Care, 60″ x 70″, 2011

A recipient of three National Endowments, a Senior Fulbight Scholar, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a 2004 Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue Jury Award and a 2009 Anonymous Was a Woman Award.

Over thirty one-person exhibitions, including those at: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Cultural Center of Chicago; Boulder Art Museum; and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (mid-career survey). Upcoming: 30 Year Retrospective in 2015 at the Rockford Art Museum which will then travel to the Chicago Cultural Center in 2016.

Included in numerous group exhibitions at: Seattle Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smart Museum; Renwick Museum; and the Corcoran Museum’s 43rd Painting Biennial. Bramson lives and paints in Chicago and has been advising painting and drawing graduate students at the School of the Art Institute at Chicago since 2007. She was awarded Professor Emerita from the University of Illinois, Chicago in 2007.

Bramson is represented by: Zolla/Lieberman, Chicago; Printworks, Chicago; Philip Sein Gallery, St Louis, MO; and Littlejohn Contemporary, NYC

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