Return to Articles


April 6 - May 8, 2004 at Newspace Gallery, Hollywood

by Andy Brumer

“Drawing,” Paul Klee once declared, “is the probity of art,” revealing his belief that--at least for him--drawing’s immediacy represented a method and means of exploring his inner world. The fifteen color pencil drawings executed on gessoed canvas that comprise Claire Browne’s exhibition titled Mind Time both elevate and celebrate drawing as an end in itself. Perhaps more importantly, the title points to ward a Bergsonian value of subjectivity (French Nobel laureate Henri Bergson (1859-1941) memorably argued that intuition is deeper than intellect--Ed). Here the structured and linear pacing of the clock and calendar, however rhythmic, give way to a more quantum driven and quirky experience of time as something abstract, erratic, unpredictable, sometimes circular and always metaphorical. Expressions such as “time stood still,” “the hours flew by,” or, “the movie dragged on,” reveal the artist’s assertion that Mind Time is not something academic or esoteric, but simply how people feel their existence most of their lives.

Yet Browne’s work does more than explore time as its subject matter. It employs it as its modus operandi, capable of transporting the artist into a new dimension. Consider the following excerpt prepared by the gallery: “After gesso is applied to canvas, Claire Browne vacates her mind. From her studio she can see the city. She can watch sunlight and particles as she draws her response on the prepared canvas. Her circles, hand drawn, are fields of energy. . .Her circles become a language, an alphabet, a mindbridge to sensing and finally knowing, the inner invisible. . .”

Indeed, but Browne’s self-induced and active daydreaming also produces extremely lovely and sensitive work that longs simply to be looked at. Each piece, which the artist designates with elemental and archetypal names, such as Shadow, Ring, Crown, and Lotus, presents amorphous groupings of doodled circles that both facilitate and welcome easy associations. Some suggest the random playfulness of irregularly shaped blood cells when viewed under a microscope, or cosmic balloons or stars, like the Aurora Borealis seen through psychedelic rose colored glasses. In other places these overflowing spheres coagulate into ecstatic bunches of Dionysian grapes. Or the more soothing ripples of water in the Japanese master Haikuist Basho’s pond after the frog jumps in, with the timelessly existential sound the translators have settled on: “Plop!”

One is tempted to relate these intuitively drawn circles to mandalas, which springing from the unconscious symbolize the effort of a suffering psyche and soul to achieve balance and reformulate wholeness. However, with its explicit zeroing out of both foreground and background, Browne’s work feels free of the jagged feelings of angst or even edginess. Rather it points in equal measure to the Impressionists’ interest in how light shimmers and dances off of objects, and to the Surrealist’s protean theater, where the life of the mind and time itself stand as two actors in a never ending play.

“Ring,” 2003, pencil
on canvas, 45 x 45”.

Below, detail of “Crown”.

“Crown,” 2003, pencil
on canvas, 45 x 45”.

Below, detail of “Crown”.

“Shadow,” 2003, pencil
on canvas, 48 x 60”.

Below, detail of “Shadow”.