Sarah Davidson and Aimée Henny Brown on Fragments

By Adi Berardini

Sarah Davidson ground figure, ink, watercolour, flashe, graphite, pencil crayon on paper, 36 x 70 in, 2018
Sarah Davidson fade away, ink, watercolour and pencil crayon on paper 27.5 x 33.5 in, 2017
Sarah Davidson the secret life of plants ink, watercolour, flashe, graphite, pencil crayon on paper 37.5 x 69 in, 2017

The sun radiates through a mobile of broken sea glass that hangs from the porch. Scratched but bright, the light creates jewel tone colours of emerald green and cerulean blues meeting pale pink. In Sarah Davidson’s work, floating shapes dance with negative space between. They’re close in proximity, but often times they don’t touch— they connect through a dialogue. They are suspended, floating in mid-air amongst the other fragments.

Fragments can shatter but they can also bring together new worlds from disparate parts. In Aimée Henny Brown’s work, fragments from archival material transform into other-worldly escape shelters and settings. Beyond the desert sand, there are mountains in the background colliding with a steel dome. Subtle lilac clouds are suspended through space and time and a new world is built up through fragments. There’s a surreal, dream-like aspect to her mixed media work.

While talking in her Vancouver studio one day, I remember Davidson saying how liberating it is to be able to cut up work especially if you’ve made something that you’re not fond of. She advised to “just cut it up”—There’s a certain freedom attached to the act. If it’s not working as a whole perhaps there are aspects of it that do work. There has to be a moment within that flick of the brush that glows among the distasteful parts. Cut it up, use it. Learn from it.

Within the suspension of the shapes in Davidson’s work, there are parts that are intentionally missing. Viewers are left to create the rest of the scene in their mind, or connect the fragments as they’re presented. We only remember mere moments from memories. Maybe I’ll only remember the expression on your face or parts of our conversation. Memories never seem to be complete, we only remember certain parts to the whole that are highlighted in our mind. The reel replays in disparate fragments. Some memories re-occur and some are forgotten like sand sifting through our fingers. Ask a friend to describe a memory and it will likely vary from your description, often drastically.

In Davidson’s latest work, there are sinewy spiderwebs filling up the negative space bringing unity to the suspended shapes. Bridging drawing and painting, there’s a new sense of depth and mystery created within the work. These works are reminiscent of memories jumbled in the mind, flashing back to a summer’s day and remembering parts of the landscape. Although the shapes are still in dialogue, they seem more interconnected through flowing lines representing flora. They have another dimension to them, through higher contrast, multi-layering, and the ghostly lines like neurotransmitters connecting the shapes together.

Fragments can tear worlds apart but they can also rebuild them. Aimée Henny Brown creates post-apocalyptic, futuristic worlds that are built from the fragments. Brown is attracted to exploring modes of survival. Her work brings up the question of escapism—when we run out of options where do we go? The post-apocalyptic collages have a sublime quality to them, although they suggest an inevitable demise, they are dreamy and mesmerizing. Brown’s work seems to evoke a past romanticism of consumerism and technology that plays its own part towards global warming, extreme weather, and the new age of environmentalism we face. 

Aimée Henny Brown Futur Infinitif VII, hand-cut collage on cotton rag paper, 46 x 46 cm, 2016
Aimée Henny Brown Futur Infinitif V, hand-cut collage on cotton rag paper, 46 x 46 cm 2016
Aimée Henny Brown Futur Infinitif IV hand-cut collage on cotton rag paper, 46 x 46 cm, 2016

In her ‘Futur Infinitif’ series Brown juxtaposes classic architecture with organic forms, such as gemstones and rough minerals. Smooth, bold architectural lines converge to rough, organic textures of gemstones. Not only are contrasting forms evoked but the materiality of the buildings are paralleled with mineral extraction. They elude to the spectacle of architecture; often times architecture creates a sense of awe and amazement without the question of where the building materials are sourced and extracted from. The large-scale spectacle of buildings is compared to the micro-scale of gems, brought into a macro-scale through these mixed media collages.

Where in Davidson’s work memory functions in a unique way, Brown’s work evokes what the future may look like through analyzing the past. Through addressing notions of survivalism, futurism, and architectural dwellings, fragments are pieced together in a way to creatively imagine what the future could look like. How do we learn to build the future in an interconnected way that considers natural systems instead of building invasive structures? Influenced by both space and time, her work brings aspects of past memories and the gleams of the possibilities the future holds.

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