Je kunt je ‘onbehagelijk’ voelen bij het bekijken van hedendaagse kunstvormen, en dat kan te maken hebben met de behandeling van een onderwerp of met het hanteren van vormen en materialen.
Bekijk je het werk van de Amerikaanse Melissa Brown, werkzaam in Brooklyn, NY USA dan heb je met beide vormen van deze -wat de Engelse taal voorziet van het woord ‘uncanny’ -onbehagelijkheid- te maken die je echter eerder nieuwsgierig naar meer maken dan je ‘de blik doen afwenden’.

caton Ave flea market 2017

De aantrekkingskracht die ik wel eens mis bij sommige gevierde coryfeeën ligt bij Melissa Brown in het vitale van haar expressie, het gebruiken van de vrouwelijke blik op de wereld die ons omringt en waarvan we zelf al dan niet erg bewust deel van uit maken.

Die ‘vrouwelijke blik’ zou ik omschrijven door het bijna ongeneerde van haar beeldopbouw: het staat er ‘met goesting’ maar ook, als je het een beetje langer bekijkt, met een wel overdachte ordening die meer door de intuïtie dan door planning is ontstaan, een kracht die ik ten zeerste waardeer en bewonder.


‘I’m interested in how painting expands perception. I paint from reality – views out of windows, cab rides, private jokes, dreams – but moments in reality that are double takes, eurekas, visual puns, and reflections: re-arrangements of my thoughts. It’s my goal to transform what is banal or deeply personal into an archetype, like a Tarot card. In fact, my paintings and animations are influenced by the Tarot and other fantasy-related paper ephemera such as money and lottery tickets.’


Uncanny is the English word for the German unheimlich. Besides Freud’s use, it is also a term Heidegger used to describe a creative state where it’s important to feel “away from home,” because it creates a dual urge to return home and forge ahead. Philosophers and historians search for the moments when a culture becomes self-aware, when all of a sudden the things it has always done change from something we just do and become “a tradition.”


These secular priests and narrators then use that self-awareness to debate the meaning of modernity, create historiography, or present unusual and unintuitive ways to think about time and consciousness. They are asking themselves this question: Is that the way things really are? Chipping away at the representation we all negotiate, and have come to call reality, making it seem like less of sure thing, and, in turn, freeing up some space for new descriptions of reality.


Brown’s portrayals are always a little wonky, a quality that animates the forms with a sense of vitality. Objects, buildings, and landscapes stand in for humans when such actors are not present. In Swamp (2018), an alligator chomping on a newspaper basks on the banks of a pond. Reflections of a human figure appear in place of the gator’s irises. The surface of the pond features undulating black and white ripples, while the grass is rendered with an intricate bamboo pattern. Throughout the landscape are various types of tropical plants, some of which recall vintage computer graphics, lending the work a nostalgic fee. (art in America Eric Sutphin 2018)


Fascinated by patterns and drawing influence from sources high and low—including lottery tickets, painted fingernails, landscape painting, and ukiyo-e prints—Melissa Brown explores form and perception in her lushly layered prints, paintings, and mixed-media works. Her training as a printmaker, working primarily with woodcuts (which she describes as “the most archaic form of printmaking”), informs her interest in repetition and its meaning.


“I’m interested in using and thinking about repeats. What it means to make a repeated image. Or, use that to some sort of advantage, or meaning, or significance.”

Brown is particularly focused on the repetitive patterns found in natural and urban environments. Skillfully combining abstraction and representation, she produces landscape scenes touched with surrealism, full of floating rocks, undulating waves, radiant skies, and trees covered with bark composed of expressive faces.


It begins with a random slice of life. Then she brings in fantasy, memory and fiction. For Melissa Brown, the beauty of art is expanding perception and presenting a world beyond the boundaries of linear experience. It’s about capturing a multi-registered view of the multiplicity of reality. The New York based artist creates her colorful, often dreamlike paintings and animations using an array of disparate techniques, from photo screen print to airbrush to oil. An idea can start with a simple glance in the rear view mirror or a trip to the casino, before evolving into her own identifiable take on the real meets the virtual and the magical.


“I get obsessed with the way a mundane experience can suddenly take on a universal, symbolic meaning”