Influenced by the writing of G.I. Gurdjieff, the ambitious message and grand scale of Hudson River School painters, the surrealist landscape paintings of the Song Dynasty, and the Zen koan, Justin Brice makes large-scale, resolution-rich photographs that immerse the viewer into a world that is virtually inaccessible — without the aid of modern technologies. His painterly images are visual metaphors for the passing of millennia, the formings and re-formings of ages of ice, vegetation, and the future’s post-apocalyptic blasted plains. Says the artist, “I purposefully choose to make compositions with no visible horizon because it’s analogous to the topology of cyberspace which so heavily dominates our lives today — we have become disorientated by default.”
Printing onto hand made, emulsion coated Belgian linen canvases, his life size ten foot (3 meter) prints are a nod to Frederick Church, whose famous single-work, exhibition-cum-spectacles merited the sale of tickets, like a modern-day movie. Like Rothko’s colorfields, these works are meant to be seen in person, as they slowly unfold and envelop the viewer over time.
They are at once harbingers of culpability and depictions of the Sublime.
This series reaches back to the Precambrian Super Eon (1 to 2 billion years ago) when our planet was a giant snowball, frozen yet roiling with inner transformation. There is Polar ice, and fissures that open onto deep abysses. A cold-water, Neptune-like place where time stands still.
“…a great stride has been made when we turn our back on the real…and watch for the hour at which the storm that has been gathering during our unconscious sleep will break with sufficient force to make sleep cease.” –Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (Swann’s Way)
There was once a time, before human beings, when our planet was lush with vegetation, and its pre-memory somehow etched deep into our very DNA. (The color green, alone, behaviorists tell us, is a salve for our modern-day, urban wounds.) The method used to create these hyper-real images mirrors today’s data-rich experience in both content and form: sacred-forest floors across the globe all have this density of everywhere-and-nowhere in common; and the camera is able to fuse multiple layers of their exposure into one, solid, hyper-real yet impossibly dense depiction.
Herein: a floating, horizonless, abstract metaphor for what geologists call our current era: The Anthropocene. Climate study tells us that earth has long been moving through several ice ages by this (our present, “interglacial”) time. And that man’s actions on the planet are all too irrevocable.
The Post Apocalypse. An imagined projection of what the planet’s surface will become. A place we retreat to when we have run out of options. Now the planet, itself, is an abstraction. How might it be re-conceived?
Justin Brice (b. 1974) is an American visual artist whose large-scale photographs explore the themes of ecology, time and change. His abstract painterly images chart earth’s geological continuum, using the planet’s modern day topography as a visual metaphor for the past, present and future.
His work is inspired by French wanderlust surrealists poets, Northern Song Dynasty landscape painters, Japanese Woodblock printing, the paintings of the Hudson River School, Mark Rothko, NASA satellite imagery, climate change and biology.
Born and raised in Maplewood, NJ, next to the home of Asher B. Durand, and a few blocks from the Hammond Map company, cartography, painting and the natural world organically overlapped at young age.
A resident of Asia for nearly two decades, Brice was recently nominated for the 2014 Sovereign Art Prize by UCCA Beijing director Philip Tinari. His work is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Sovereign Art Foundation
Nominated for the Sovereign Art Prize by UCCA Director Phil Tinari
Sovereign Art Foundation, Hong Kong
2 September - 7 October 2012
Noorderlicht International Photofestival
Museum Belvédère, Heerenveen/Oranjewoud, Netherlands