A Tactile Route to Landscapes: Judith Brenner Talks Physicality, Environment & Collaboration

In the build up to CONTEMPORARIES we have a chat with exhibiting mixed media artist Judith Brenner at her Wimbledon art studio. 

Blue Hills Tin | 2017 | Mixed media on canvas | 100 x 100cm | £3200

Tell us about yourself.

My Name is Judith Brenner, but people call me Jude, and I make paintings based loosely on landscape imagery which I develop to abstraction.

When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?

All I used to do when I was little was paint and draw, I loved it and it was the one thing I was good at; I was rubbish at school, so would always be in the art room. I always had a pen and paper for as long as I can remember; I never wanted to do anything else.

You use a broad variety of materials in your work, what is it about these different mediums that you are interested in exploring?

It is a newish path for me; I did a residency last October in Cape Cornwall and became really involved with the materiality of my surroundings, with the sand, stone, sea and that weather. That is what got me into using whatever I can get my hands on to create the feeling of being in a place; so the artwork becomes more tactile. I really enjoy the physicality of it, almost like you can touch the paintings because they are an experience of being in a place, rather than it being a depiction of a particular landscape.

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Using metals is quite good because I am able to sprinkle them onto my canvas, when I lay it flat, then use vinegar and salt to rust them. I work with a big easel which can be arranged flat and when I move my paintings to vertical parts will naturally fall off. I love experimenting with materials; it is a new thing for me.

Why landscapes?

I supposed I have always needed a trigger, I am influenced by what I see and things that are visually exciting are what I want to bring into my work. I also use the view outside my window at Wimbledon Art Studios which is quite urban and rusting. 

How long have you been at the Wimbledon Art Studios for?

I’ve been here for three years. It has been brilliant for networking, getting my work out there, meeting other artists, and involving myself in exhibitions and competitions. It is a bit of a competitive environment, but that is good for me because I had a studio on my own once and I hated not being with people. At the studios you can just have your door open if you want to talk to people and just shut it if you don’t… I always have my door open.

Are you from London originally?

I am, but I did my Fine Art degree at Manchester.

Beyond the Brisons | 2017 | Mixed Media on Canvas |  100 x 100 cm

And how was that?

It was in 1983-86, I loved it but I don’t think we really learnt very much. I just loved being around other artists and just mucking around with paint really. When I came out I didn’t really know what to do, so I built up a portfolio and went back to the landscape stuff, had some shows and was taken on by a gallery… but then got pregnant and gave it up for fourteen years!

I had three children, but I always did life drawing all the way through raising them, sketched on holidays, etc. I came back to it when my daughter went to school and now she is eighteen and the oldest is twenty-six, so it is my time again.

Which artist is your biggest inspiration?

Cornish artist Peter Lanyon is a huge influence, looking down with his aerial views, changing the space in a painting. I have been looking at a lot of Robert Rauschenberg since seeing him at the Tate Modern. The way he transfers images is quite exciting and his collages are great, but doing it in paint is quite difficult. I do use a lot of collage sketches.

We saw that you have done collaborations before, how did you go about them?

Geevor II, 2017 | Mixed media on canvas | 120 x 120cm | £3800

I did a painting with Richard Knight which we displayed in the recent Wimbledon Open Studios and it sold! I had the idea because two years ago I did a mentoring scheme down in Cornwall and  every other month I went down for a long weekend, had tutorials and group critiques. I learnt a lot about others way of working, so when I got the residency in October I got some of the guys who live down there to come and work with me on the beach. We did huge collaborative pieces and I loved watching other people work and responding to their mark making, you get less precious about your work.

I wanted more structure in my work and putting it upon someone else’s work is brilliant because you aren’t as restricted to what you normally do and that it works for me. I think it worked really well as he is very graphic and I am not; he needed some of me and I needed some of him. 

So what are your hopes in the next couple of years?

I like working towards something, so I would like to have more shows and work with more artists and just get out there a bit more. I never had a chance to do it because I gave my time to my family, but now I have to do it before I get really old! I like being around young people as I don’t feel any different from them, even though I know I am, but they still include me. I just want to meet more artists, get involved, and have the chance to step back from a body of work and get feedback from outside, which is important.

Jude's artwork will be exhibited in Focus LDN's CONTEMPORARIES this June 21st-25th at the Old Brompton Gallery.