Now Featuring Brent Wadden
Brent Wadden‘s diverse practice includes drawing, painting, weaving and sculpture. Using intensely handmade processes, he investigates lo-fi patterns that morph into forms that recall semaphore flags, scientific graphs, prisms and more. The result is eye popping pattern that refers to a vast array of the viewer’s own experiences while constantly recalling you to look back, and look again.
MH: With your focus on pattern and repetition, I was really excited to see that you’ve made weaving a part of your practice. Can you tell me about that, and the methods you use?
BW: People are always telling me that my work would translate well into textiles because of the patterns and repletion, so it was an obvious new direction for me. I first had the idea to make a series of small weavings a year or so ago and contacted Travis Meinhof (actionweaver.com) who was not only super nice to give me a few little lessons, but also loaned me one of his tiny laser cut looms which was super easy to learn on and a great starting point. I’ve never studied weaving so I’m coming into this completely blind which I like, figuring new techniques out from scratch.
MH: Will you tell me a bit about your signature black/white triangle pattern? It shows up in weaving, sculpture and works on paper and is really appealing, in part because it doesn’t appear to mean anything, but also because it recalls everything from harlequin tights to semaphore flags to film clappers.
BW: Yes, it didn’t start out meaning anything specific. The triangle black and white patterns emerged a few years while developing a series of drawings titled Complex Structures. It’s an ongoing series of works on paper depicting ruins and some other forms. which could be seen as a kind of landmass such as mountains. In the beginning I used the pattern to represent individual bricks or rocks within the structure which was usually made up of a simple grid pattern, then I continually filled in with the same pattern throughout, creating a fairly heavy looking mass.
I like it when people bring their own references to it, like you mentioned. Since using the pattern for a while it has also made me think of the anarchist flag, which is important for me but was never the leading idea.
MH: What’s your relationship to the digital and to other forms of mechanical reproduction? I ask in part because your work is so heavily pattern-based but also looks totally made-by-hand, perhaps even without a “machine” like a ruler, but also because others whose work yours might be compared to in terms of connection to patterns and graphics, like Paperrad for example, frequently work with video and online. (I like the digital-to-weaving translation in your Transmission piece.)
BW: My work is pretty much always 100 percent made by hand. I’m very much a hands on kind of guy who likes to make things in the physical world. I like working at a slow pace and really investing time in the things I make. But at the same time I’m not looking for perfection. I usually work within some kind of set perimeters (like the size of the loom, the grid of a drawing …) and then incorporate the inconsistencies and ‘flaws’ that appear throughout as part of the whole process determined by the medium. Somehow I feel that there are too many variables and possibilities within digital applications, like a digital drawing could be of endless size or colour. I love both screenprinting and xerox machines because of the natural mistakes that occur when you are a little sloppy like me.. I currently have a shitty fax machine that I’ve been using to make copies of drawings that look quite wonderful with the random dirty lines all over the paper.
MH: What’s the appeal of massiveness and denseness to you? Your patterns feel that way, as surfaces, but you also use it to describe what some of your work depicts, like ruins and mountains. One thing it suggests to me is incomprehensibly… not in terms of a failure in communication on your part, but as a way of investigating the information held in images and patterns.
BW: For as long as I can remember I’ve always been attached to a kind of super overwhelming busy aesthetic. Like most teenagers I would cover every inch of my bedroom with posters ripped out from skate and music magazines, as well as punk rock flyers. I eventually cleaned up my act a little but in some ways but still find myself attracted to this same kind of style in some ways. While at art school I became more interested in both graffiti and urban exploration which go hand in hand to me. All of these things subconsciously emerge indirectly in my art.
MH: Can you talk to me about your color choices? Graphic is one word that comes to mind, in terms of the amount of high contrast you use, either in black and white work, or in overwhelming amounts of color, but as you’ve said, your work is extremely handmade, and at some remove from the media one might consider “graphic.”
BW: To be honest I don’t think so much about my palette… of course I’m thinking about color while I’m painting, but mostly how one color relates to the previous color but nothing is pre-planned. Somehow in the end everything looks rather consistent. I’ve acquired this endless supply of materials which seems to be fairly consistent over the years… lots of bright stuff like teal, pink, blue etc but I will pretty much use whatever I get my hands on. As for the graphic nature of my work, I studied design for a year before going to art school which I’m guessing has had an influence on my style in some ways but I’m not so conscious of that.
MH: Is there anything else you’d like to share with LPP readers, like favorite artists, upcoming projects?
BW: I’m currently really into the quilts made by the women of Gees Bend as well as a handful of contemporary dudes around the world who are keeping things fresh like Johann Krex, Seripop, Christopher Norris (steak mountain), Christopher Kline, Sol Calero and Özlem Altin; pretty much anyone who is doing stuff that flows from their soul and has a good attitude. I’ve taking part in a few small group exhibitions in Berlin as well as some smaller book works with Bongout and Blood Becomes Water but besides that I’m having a total summer chill out at the moment, trying to enjoy the sun as much as possible, ride my bike, catch some east coast Canadian waves in July and then hopefully some salty sea in Brittany, France in August. Fingers crossed.