Ken Browne's new paintings offer a uniquely innovative approach to the landscape genre. In these highly evocative works, landscape becomes the vehicle through which the artist explores the realms of human emotion and the subconscious.
These meticulously crafted abstract paintings were inspired by the artists' experience of different Irish landscapes. These are not specific landscapes but a synthesis of natural scenes that the artist has beheld in the past and which have left an indelible mark on his imagination. The upper zone of each painting is dominated by skilfully-rendered, turbulent skyscapes. While these skies are impressively Turneresque in their grandeur, they are also unmistakeably Irish. They vary as only an Irish sky can vary, grey and misty one moment, warm and burnished the next.
However, to uncover the true emotional and psychological depth of these works, a more prolonged viewing is necessary. If the upper area of the work is defined by exuberant skies, then the lower area is defined by layers of dark and shadowy colour, suggesting that beneath these energetic skyscapes there lurks something foreboding. As the painting descends there is a gradual abandonment of realistic description in favour of areas of darkness where something deeper, more powerful, and perhaps more sinister dwells. With their blacks and browns, deep reds and golds, these lower zones are admirably reminiscent of some of the greatest practitioners of tenebrismo such as Caravaggio or Velazquez. Here we are truly in the realm of the subconscious, the implication being that one's experience of nature is inextricably linked to deep-rooted emotional and spiritual processes lying dormant inside us all. These works go even further by suggesting that the human senses are inadequate when it comes to perceiving natural elements, that only when they operate in tandem with these intuitive emotional/spiritual processes does one begin to comprehend the natural world.
It is this interplay between bright skyscapes at the top and shadowy realms at the bottom that marks these out as truly original works. Viewers are advised to take their time with these paintings, to let the eye gaze back-and-forth between these beautiful zones of light and dark until the work awakens an instinctive emotional response to the experience of the Irish landscape.
Donal O' Sullivan