My paintings engage with a spiritual journey, the challenges of living in the modern world, and dreams that hover somewhere above the subconscious. Within these themes, there is conflict: chaos vs. enlightenment, epochs vs. creation, anxiety, materialism vs. spirituality, and social commentary.
For several years, I've had a persistent waking "dream." It begins with sleep paralysis, in a half-wake half-dream state, that is crushing and terrifying, but if I allow myself to "fall" into the suffocating blackness something strange occurs of varying degrees along these lines: I will hear a high-pitched sound, feel an intense vibration in my head and "travel" through some kind of vibrant tunnel. When I get to the other side (not often, because I usually wake up first) I've had some profound "experiences," that have challenged my conventions and beliefs-- from those of atheism to agnosticism to someone who can't help but believe that something is going on around us that we are not yet able to fully understand. Maybe it's quantum mechanics? Or perhaps it's a collective unconscious? Or maybe it's just something undefinable that many artists have "channeled" through their work. I've explored these phenomena through single canvas diptychs: one side materialism, the other the void, Buddha statues crisscrossed with geometric lines, decaying, or in outline asking whether the spiritual is real or not, contemplating epochs and creation, and, ultimately, portraits depicting the form of my subjects- facing the anxiety of the modern and digital world within their spiritual personae. Some of my work also has some social commentary and subtextual humor.
SPIRITUAL DECAY is one of my more recent works-- a gold laughing Budha painted live off a statue I bought a few years ago down in LA's Chinatown, who is coming apart at his seems. The void around him is either forming or deforming, and the cerulean blue grids in the blackest parts of the paint come directly from one of my "dreams."
In AGE OF ANXIETY AND BEAUTY, I wanted to capture my twenty-five-year-old subject's feelings and spiritual essence (as she posed many times over a month), beyond her flesh, while in this moment of her life she struggles to cope with her self-image and the stresses of coming of age in our hyperactive digital culture. All the shapes around her come from her emotions, derived from interviews I had with her over lengthy sittings.
In N. PELOSI'S MOUTH X7 there are seven anatomical size medical drawings of Nancy Pelosi's mouth painted on a six-foot by five-inch canvas. I find all the talking and hyper-analyzing on our news networks to be comically absurd, yet I can't get enough of it. The pundits and politicians drone on and on, so I repeated her mouth over and over. Coincidentally, I created the apolitical art-- before she became House Speaker.
I prefer to paint objects from life whenever possible without the aid of computers or digital manipulation. I want to explore how the reality of the object in life gets onto the canvas, and I enjoy fighting my preconceived mental biases, meaning what I think I see is often not what ends up on the canvas. Size, proportions, dimensions- sometimes the actual truthful line on the canvas as it pertains to the accurate depiction of the object scrambles my brain; unscrambling through the work reveals the truth. I believe that the more I do this in my practice of painting and drawing, the more of the authentic world I will also see.
I mostly use acrylics, (I.e., plastic), to reflect the material of our modern age, vivid colors to go along with the apocalyptic overtones that can crop up in my work, or just the colors of the subject at hand.
Lastly, in a way, my process is a rebellion against the coming age of artificial intelligence and the increasing preponderance of visual uncertainty in mass and social media. Perhaps, I will embrace computer assistance or other technological aids in the future, but, for now, I want to celebrate that which comes from my own eyes and my hand.
I believe ultimately, human beings are all at their core, highly creative. I hope in some ways my work celebrates and will continue to celebrate the unbound soulful creativity that all of us have inside of ourselves.
Gregg Brown's background is in photography and the performing arts. From September 15th, 2001 – May 10th, 2002, he documented The World Trade Center terror attack devastation and recovery, nearly daily, from police helicopters captured on 35mm film. In 2011, a small portion of the unparalleled archive of 30,000 photos made up one of five solo shows that was a significant museum exhibition at the International Center of Photography in New York on REMEMBERING 9/11, a harrowing experience that profoundly influenced his work and life. Gregg also hosted and created an avant-garde cable TV show (where he filmed people on the streets of Manhattan reacting to touching strange objects hidden inside a refrigerator-sized box among other "performance art" exploits), and he's played a variety of film, theater, and TV roles.
Unlike acting and photography, Gregg never formally studied drawing or painting. Sometime in 2017, he pulled out some paint and brushes (that he bought a few years earlier on a whim) out of the closet, and he put them on his living room table. They stayed there for six months until Gregg finally couldn't stand looking at them anymore and thought: now or never: better make a painting, and instantly he was hooked. He watched any documentary he could find on artists he admired and discovered like Twombly, Pollock, Basquiat, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and so many more, studied hundreds of paintings, watched numerous YouTube tutorials and read several books. He also looked extensively at contemporary painters and found himself admiring Joe Bradley, and Jennie Saville, among others.
One night in 2018 he found himself watching a documentary on none other than Lucien Freud, perhaps Gregg's most lasting influence. He was astonished that a painter would take over a year (of nearly daily six-hour sittings) with a subject to create a painting. After watching the doc, he thought, mused, daydreamed, "if I ever could paint an actual living human that would be a tremendous personal accomplishment..." One year later, he did.
Gregg lives in Los Angeles with his dog, a sweet, intelligent, and good-natured labradoodle named Roman.