Brent Wadden is a Canadian artist based intermittently between Vancouver and Berlin. In 2003 he graduated with a BFA from his hometown's Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. That same year he had his first solo show at Anna Leonowens Gallery in Halifax. Since then the artist has exhibited in Berlin, Amsterdam, Toronto, Brussels, London, New York and Paris. His works blur the boundaries between craft and fine art, marrying hard-edged geometric abstraction with folkish textile art. Through the process and the final product Wadden seeks to establish a dialogue between hand-craft processes and the history of Modernist painting.Read More
Wadden's process is a distinctive and fundamental aspect of his work. He rejects the impatience of modern Western society and consumerist notions of cheap and instant means of gratification in art. Instead, the artist labouriously hand-weaves textiles from various natural and synthetic fibres—typically wool, cotton and acrylic—obtained from mostly second-hand sources such as other weavers, second-hand shops, estate sales and online sites like eBay. These materials are combined to create highly textured components that are patched together on a large canvas to form various abstract geometric grid patterns.
Wadden's work was salient in the 2014 group exhibition Mingei: Are You Here?, curated by Nicolas Trembley at Pace Gallery, New York (first shown at Pace London). The exhibition examined historical works from the Mingei folk craft movement of 1920s post-industrialised Japan alongside modern and contemporary artists including Bauhaus artist Anni Albers.
The composition of Wadden's works typically follows in the footsteps of early- to mid-century Modernism, particularly Abstract Expressionism and Op art; hard-edged, abstract geometric patterns create a shifting sense of positive and negative space through the contrasting areas of light and dark. In the 'Alignment' series (2013–2014) this was done with simple contrasts of black and white, but with works such as those in the 'TBT' series (2014) the artist began experimenting with different colour variations though remaining tight in monochromatic form. Unlike painting, however, the composition of the assemblage was only determined in the final stages of preparation.
Errors of alignment where shapes warp or do not quite meet their counterparts, plus inconsistencies of shape, line, texture and tone, and various other flaws can be found in most of Wadden's works. They are a natural part of the process, especially as the artist is not a formally trained weaver—a major element that distinguishes him from Albers. Wadden, however, accepts these flaws as an abstract painter would accept accidental drips. He even changes looms every so often to ensure he never gets too skilled. The flaws not only draw greater attention to the process but are crucial to the dialogue between hand-crafts and Modernist painting.
For the most-part Wadden's works do not actually involve paint. Yet texturally—through the flaws and the nature of the woven materials, particularly wool—they possess the character of a painterly surface, melding the aesthetics—and by association, status—of hand-made textile crafts and abstract painting. This melding is taken further in several works from 2012 named Untitled, where Wadden actually applies oil paint onto linen in a series of multi-coloured triangular patterns.
Wadden continues to develop this visual repertoire. In more recent works, such as 3 Pink Bars (2015), GGBB (2016) and Untitled (2016), the lines have become straighter and the colour contrasts sharper, with more vivid combinations, such as tonal variations of red and blue, or green, brown and black, introduced. His rigorous commitment to abstraction and the grid remains a constant across all his work.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2017