Since 1989, Lyndell Brown and Charles Green have worked in collaboration. Working within intersections of painting, photography and digital reproduction, the artists explore the complex notions of visual and cultural archival structures and the entwined connections between (artistic) memory and representation.
Layering and fragmentation is a particularly strong characteristic of Brown and Green’s works, not only through their trompe l’oeil methods of suspending disparate images atop another larger image, but also through the artists’ extraordinary technique of translating photographs into paintings, then translating them again through photographic transparencies. This method unites many modes of representation; Brown and Green are conscious of the tensions between documenting and representing, both being crucial to historical connections that they are making and that others have not seen before: ‘In these small theatres of suspended reality, hallucinations and dreams are not conditions of escape but urgent performative undertakings through which history, society and the self fleetingly come into focus’.
Some of Brown and Green’s previous works have been closer to traditional landscape rather than their painted montages, however. A series of paintings that depict the 1960s Earth Artist Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, constructed in 1970 in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, and now visible above the waterline due to drought, reflect their deep engagement with Smithson’s theories of entropy and the ephemeral. Brown and Green’s Spiral Jetty series engages with their positive interaction with the archive, or cultural store, as opposed to the 1980s ‘mining’ or appropriation of other artist’s work. Indeed, this is a fundamental part of the artists’ practice – Brown and Green are rebuffing the 1980s prejudice against painting whilst beautifully and ironically representing Smithson’s work in a traditional format, without the disillusionment of postmodernism and retrieving the past for inspiration.
Their most recent work is embedded in tradition through its resemblance of grand 18th century exotic landscapes and its place within Australia’s war history. In March 2007, Brown and Green travelled through the Middle East and Afghanistan as official war artists for the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The resulting commission became Framing Conflict – Iraq and Afghanistan, an Australian War Memorial travelling exhibition, which includes a body of photography and painting - three large canvases and sets of smaller paintings. The memorial’s scheme has been operating in various forms since 1917 and the artists, undertaking such a dangerous but unique tour of war zones, were acutely aware of their place in history as war artists despite a background of anti-war sentiment. Here Brown and Green have foregone juxtapositions for direct representation. Views of distant outposts and military equipment against the background of ancient monuments and portraits of Australian service men and women allude to historical, visual conventions, but the impact on the artists and the bleak nature of contemporary warfare seeps through in Brown and Green’s war works; the interminable waiting and vast resources arrayed to no visible effect.
Since 1989 Lyndell Brown and Charles Green have worked in collaboration. They have held more than 30 solo exhibitions, most recently including: Framing Conflict: Iraq and Afghanistan, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne (2008); War 2007, Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi (2008); and have been included in several national and international curated group exhibitions including Tranquility, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, and M.Y. Art Prospects, New York, (2005), with Rose Farrell & George Parkin; Photographica Australis, ARCO Madrid, National Gallery of Thailand, National Gallery of Singapore, 2003-2004, and Tales of the Unexpected, the National Gallery of Australia, 2002.
Brown and Green are represented in major national and international collections including National Gallery of Australia; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Art Gallery of South Australia; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of West Australia; University of Melbourne Vizard Foundation; University of Sydney; University of Western Sydney; King’s School; Trinity College; McClelland Regional Gallery and several other regional galleries and curated corporate collections in Australia, United States, Spain, Germany, India, Japan and Canada.
i Blair French, ‘Tranquillity,’ in Natasha Bullock (ed.), Tranquillity, Exh. Cat., Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005, p. 4.
ii Andrew Stephens, ‘Once were witnesses,’ A2, The Age Newspaper, Saturday 26.11.2008.
Photograph by Sean Hobbs, courtesy Australian War Memorial