I have confronted many of the biases and pre-conceived notions contemporary artists and critics have about this style of landscape painting: “it’s been done,” “it’s pretty pictures,” “it lacks a critical context,” etc. So I have decided to use these constructs in my favor. I am using the innocuousness of landscape to set up the uncanny moment.
In his 1916 essay on the subject, Sigmund Freud described the uncanny as seeing something we thought we knew in a different or unnatural context. It creates an eeriness that suggests the sense or power of something otherworldly. The uncanny agents of the work in another setting might not trigger that uncanny feeling, so I feel that this style of landscape painting is essential to setting up the uncanny moment and thereby creating a subtle and ominous relationship in my work.
The uncanny is strongly based in reality or what we perceive of it. My intention is for viewers of my artwork to question their reality and experience the uncanny moment. Viewers must ask what is happening and recognize a significant moment of hyperawareness that most likely creates more questions than it answers. This uncanny moment challenges viewers’ preconceptions about landscape and forces them into critical thought by re-evaluating their experience and the idea of landscape painting as a whole.
My artwork is not about documenting or creating unusual phenomena so much as it is about providing viewers with a shared mental experience and tapping into a primal location in our psyche. I am capturing that moment of recognition, an area where we instinctively try to comprehend what is happening, and thus reconcile the significance of what we are seeing (with out the aid of preconceived notions or previous experiences). Viewers are not witnessing the unknown in the painting as much as experiencing the unknown areas of their own minds.
That being said, I also have a strong feeling that a work of art needs to communicate on its own and not be co-dependent on an essay or explanation. Increasingly, contemporary art requires a large amount of discourse or critical theory to be appreciated or understood. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the art world becomes ever more esoteric and it falls further away from the tastes of the general public. It is my job as an artist to respond to both of these factions; to address the history of the medium and produce work that is new and innovative, and also for the work to be able to stand on it’s own and speak to a wider audience.
Brandon completed his BFA from the University of Minnesota in 1997, and he completed his MFA from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2011. Currently he resides with his family in the Twin Cities.
Interview with WTIP, 2009