Big Humanity by Jane Dyer, March 2010
Entering Bill Brown’s studio I become witness to his enigmatic voice. Brown’s space is charged; noisy with conversations. Paintings call to each other, sometimes in a whisper, tender; sometimes bawdy, but always with what Brown calls a ‘first innocence’, a wise innocence, the innocence of knowing.
Brown is a conjurer. Paintings and drawings evoke a universe of references. Fabulist notions, usually associated with the magic realism of writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, skitter across canvases, his brush carves out totems to and of life. The boat, the bird, the man, teeter in space, on water, between a woman’s thighs. Brown’s Garden of Eden is somehow precarious and vulnerable, yet objective, almost laconic; simultaneously lusty and distanced like a Rousseau tableau.
His world is now, beyond, here, elsewhere. This critical distance is essential - offering an authenticity in and of the world, in its viscerality and blood and in its enchantment.
Brown suspends the usual parameters that frame our perceptions of reality. He paints the place between – a falling and soaring otherworld, fluctuating between void and sun, with him at the helm, in transit, always moving toward a slippery destiny that strips away certainties. Brown elicits a world that veers between the rational and irrational, the real and illusory - as Brown puts it, he is ‘a voice singing into a dark room’. Brown’s titles tell us his cargo is a ship of fools, a poet, two voices (talking to myself). He has encounters, first sightings, leavings, the ship sails on. His destination is the journey itself.
Recently Brown gave me a copy of Baudrillard’s The Perfect Crime.
‘So, my friend, after the example of the Phoenicians, you charted your course by the stars? ‘No’ said Menippus, ‘it was among the stars themselves I journeyed.’
As I read the book I was reminded of one man’s artesian venturing, simultaneously said and unsaid, individual and universal – Brown’s big humanity.
Australian artist and writer