Painting for himself, and Proust
Charley Brown has little to say about specific artistic influences, and steers far clear of anything resembling an artist’s statement. One essayist found debts to Francis Bacon and Caravaggio in a series of figurative paintings in the late 1990s. Looking at his more recent work, which is more abstract, some detect an Asian reference, or perhaps an influence from such modern masters as Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline or Richard Serra.
For Charley, literature and music provide constant sources of freshness and ideas. He’s been listening to the music of Igor Stravinsky since he was 16. “I’ve had other musical phases, of course,” Charley says. “But I always go back to Stravinsky. There’s just something about it. The rhythms are very complex. The instrumentations are sparse. He does a lot with a little. There’s an economic use of the sound, and it sounds just right to me.”
More recently, Charley says he has drawn renewed energy from the work of novelist Marcel Proust. He has listened to audiobook versions of the French writer’s work over and over during the past few years, as he restored a better balance between the demands of life and his personal exploration. “Proust changed my world,” he says. “I discovered what a monumental artistic achievement Proust had accomplished. Proust’s work has been a constant reminder to be honest with myself and my work.”
Charley shares a beautifully-preserved Victorian townhouse with his partner (and husband since 2011) Mark Evans, who has his own independent artistic career. The downstairs entrance opens into the business office of Evans & Brown, a jointly-owned enterprise that is famous for creating decorative murals and wallcoverings. The middle office is Mark’s. At the rear, in a more airy studio giving onto a leafy urban garden, is Charley. You’ll possibly find him listening yet again while he works to the recording of À la recherche du temps perdu. Each volume lasts around 25 hours. There are seven volumes. “I’m getting to know it pretty well,” Charley says.
“Brown creates a new gestural line in this body of work by applying paint with a brayer rather than a brush…The final compositions induce a kind of synesthetic effect, awakening waves of sound that parallel their elegant visual reverberations. It is no wonder Brown identifies Igor Stravinsky, composer of the animalistic and boldly avant-garde The Rite of Spring, as one of his artistic inspirations.”Catalog essay for Divergence exhibition, 2013
Edgar Allen Poe