“Our search for the human takes us too far, too ‘deep’, we seek it in the clouds or in mysteries, whereas it is waiting for us, besieging us on all sides …All we need do is simply to open our eyes, …and we will discover the immense human wealth that the humblest facts of everyday life contain.” ― Henri Lefebvre
In his latest exhibition ‘Sundays and Holidays’, Dean Brown finds beauty in the humble, everyday experiences of ordinary people. Adopting the role of voyeur, his paintings muse on the mundane and carefully observe the subtle nuances of quotidian life.
Following the mantra ‘paint what’s available to you’ Brown finds his subjects in close proximity to his inner-city studio or while hanging around the beach. Inspired by chance scenes and encounters, the paintings capture a distinct moment in the life of each construction worker, supervisor, pedestrian or early morning swimmer. Guided by the artist, we’re prompted to observe the expert broom handling of the worker in ‘Labour Hire’; the well-versed boss-man stance of ‘The Beekeeper’; ‘The Client’s’ relaxed hand-in-pocket attitude; and the intriguing posture of the white-capped female swimmer showering off by the beach in ‘The Bather’ and ‘The Bather II’. As his paintings meditate on these small instants, Brown both celebrates the worth of each subject and converts each fleeting moment into something more extraordinary.
Led by a limited palette of black, white, umber and deep aquamarine blue, Brown focuses on making solid, well-balanced pictures. Recalling the photography of twentieth century Australians Max Dupain and Olive Cotton, he favours a high-contrast aesthetic and exploits light to dramatic effect on the aluminium panels. Blocky yet muscular figures are accompanied by bold shadows which hint at early morning, midday or late afternoon activities. Cast in a range of compelling shapes, the shadows also act to humanise each solitary man or woman.
By charging his ‘everyday people’ with heightened dignity, Brown encourages the viewer’s empathy toward each character of this cast. Flipping the contemporary obsession with fast-surfing and scrolling through reams of unreal episodes and images, his paintings invite us to slow down and share in each of these honest human encounters.