‘States’ of Brian Calvin


When faced with the blank gaze of Brian Calvin’s heroins, it is hard not to, in a primary act of arrogant whimzy, dismiss them as flat, banal creatures of a lustrous glaze – eye catching surely, yet not entirely captivating. Albeit, the more one observes, the more one is immersed by intrigue – Calvin’s portraits are exuding just the right amount of vacuousness to awaken a sense of wonder, leaving the onlooker contemplating if one can catch a glimpse of a soul contained within the canvas or if one is facing their own inward projections. While the unwavering lack of emotion imparts Calvin’s work with an element of poignant mystique, deeming the canvases as resolutely apathetic would be to impart a certain injustice. Although it is quite evident that Calvin is rejecting any possibility of the narrative within his figurative works, the wide-eyed heroines, their sultry mouths slightly ajar, glares with just enough depth to impart a sense of personality, render a feeling of a moment ‘suspended in action’ – whatever that action might be, as there are no indices that could suggest a certain setting. The onlooker is left with a tangible feeling of a heroin that fails to seize a moment and is subsequently left in the subjective state of emptiness that ensues; but that is ofcourse a subject of personal sentiment rather than objective analysis.


Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery, ©Brian Calvin

However as there is always a certain energy transmitted between artist, canvas and the onlooker the canvases,despite being non representational, are extraordinarily believable.
This is partly because of the sun-drenched palette the artist embraced which adds a note of youthfull banality to the canvas; and partly because of the jarring contrast. In a sense, the intensity of the color and radiating impulsivity are discordant to the idiosyncratic flatness, and as vividly coloured blocks simplify the image, they subsequently –  with their fresh irreverence – demand or even evoke a state of reverie within the onlooker.
And Raf Simons surely agrees – if one is to judge by the collaboration he has had with the artist for his SS13 collection featuring tees and sweatshirts emblazoned with Calvin’s signature characters. In a sense it was a perfect match, even somewhat of a metaphysical experience – pairing Raf’s irreverent youth to Calvin’s depiction of  juvenescence, doubling up on the non-apologetic attitude that resonates in both artist works, cleverly disguised underneath the sheer layers of candy coloured goodness. Yet the unsettledness is still there to discover as Calvin’s characters unconsciously startle the mind, demanding contemplation from the onlooker.
Such is the power of Calvin’s work.

Brian Calvin on View at Almine Rech  until 27th May