ARTIST

Phyllis Bramson

b. 1941

Born in Madison, Wissconsin; lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Monotype was a natural medium for painter Phyllis Bramson, who created her Savage Garden Series at Tamarind in 1990.

I use images that are infused with lighthearted arbitrariness and amusing anecdotes about love and affection, in an often cold and hostile world. Mostly, I am making work that percolates forth life's imperfections: that doesn't take decorum all that seriously, refusing to separate manners of taste from larger questions about "good behavior." The paintings are reactions to all sorts of sensuous events, from the casual encounter to highly formalized exchanges of lovemaking (and everything in between). Miniaturized schemes, which meander between love, desire, pleasure and tragedy; all channeled through seasonal changes. Burlesque-like and usually theatrical incidents, that allow for both empathy and "addled" folly, while projecting capricious irritability with comic bumps along the way.

The art writer Miranda McClintoc wrote: "Phyllis Bramson's imaginative portrayals of stereotypical sexual relationships incorporate the passionate complexity of eastern mythology, the sexual innuendos of soap operas and sometimes the happy endings of cartoons." The art writer/critic Jim Yood, claims that Chicago figuration always involves figures under some sort stress.

Of increasing importance is the challenge of the field on which the painting's narrative operates, since it is no longer a firm support for the spaces in between things. The use of luscious planes of color, layer upon layer of subtly graduated glazes, create saturated color fields onto which subjects can frolic freely. The finished works become a site for sensuous discourse pushed into a precarious state that the viewer can get lost in. Frivolous appearing, albeit often over blown concoctions all intoxicatingly enveloped in my desire to project beauty.

My "sources" remain those of Rococo and Chinoiserie of the 18th century as well as Chinese Pleasure Garden paintings and the French painters, Boucher and Fragonard. The paintings of Fragonard usually dealt with pastoral pleasures, (often hiding a secret) and immoral luxury that had elements of the political; caricatures showing the decadent frivolity of his time, when the peasant class was starving. An art historian described Fragonard's figures as always blushing and sensuous and the landscapes in which the figures dallied, as having the same attributes.

 

The narratives in my paintings remain incomplete, never really telling a coherent story and thus resemble abstracted tropes concerning romantic folly and loss. They are used as a repository for feelings, which often collide and intermingle between the personal and at the same time, propose a story that doesn't tell the ending. Paintings that wobble between private subjective values, social concerns and conceits, self subscribed metaphors, melancholic loss and cliché. It is the materiality, the philosophical as well as visual aspects of making a painting that that drives my work.

--Phyllis Bramson 

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