Sebastiaan Bremer is renowned for transforming ordinary snapshots into grandly baroque and surreal tableaux by a careful process of retouching and enlargement. Since his first solo show, in 1994, he has exhibited in venues such as the Tate Gallery, London, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, and the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut. He has been based in the United States since 1992.
Although Bremer has always been interested in photography, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he began to draw directly on the surface of photographs. He has been inspired in part by nineteenth century spirit photography, and fin de siècle Symbolists such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and painter Odilon Redon, but his methods partake of advanced photographic techniques. Often he will begin with a simple snapshot of friends or family or familiar places, and after enlarging it far beyond conventional dimensions, he will begin altering and embellishing the image with India ink and photographic dye.
He has often used the ink to produce fine patterns of lines reminiscent of cobwebs, or readings from seismographs. Photographic dyes also enable him to blur and mute some forms while accentuating others, and make some colors bloom while others recede into mysterious darkness. The result is an image that seems to literally vibrate with hidden consequence, as if the subject matter has sent cracks across the surface of the picture. Whilst Bremer’s choice of images inevitably grounds his work in his own biography, his imagery also makes reference to alchemy, art, and the occult, establishing unexpected connections between ordinary life, history, and the unconscious.
Sebastiaan Bremer lives and works in New York. He studied at the Vrije Academie, The Hague, and Skowhegan School of Art and Sculpture, Maine. He has published two major catalogs: Monkey Brain (2003), and Avila (2006). His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
My process is playful. There is no clear plan or story I am trying to tell. I manipulate photographs which evoke a familiar feeling—something I have a deep connection to. As I draw on these photographs, a story is told—something seen through my eyes, an intrinsic human response to emotion and to memory. What I create are visual manifestations of my ideas.
A total of 14 black and white photographic works, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against cream colored walls in the main gallery space, the smaller side room, and the entry area. All of the works are hand painted archival inkjet prints on matte paper with pigment ink, made in 2016 and 2017. Physical sizes range from roughly 7×5 to 37×50 (or reverse) and all of the works are unique.
Today’s show: “Sebastiaan Bremer: Ave Maria” is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York through Saturday, June 24. The solo exhibition presents a series of recent works that use photographs that the Dutch artist took 23 years ago while living in New York.
Sanctuary 21c is an immersive work that will transform a guest suite, combining components of a music-recording studio with antique mirrors, tile work, urban signage, and Bremer’s own artwork. The resulting ‘sanctuary’ will break down barriers between art and music, art and life, and the artist and the audience, as guests become participants, able to make and record music. Sanctuary 21c is the latest evolution of Bremer’s installations in which he and his collaborators create studio space to make art and play and record music.
Dutch artist Sebastiaan Bremer is working to build a sanctuary in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Hailing from Amsterdam, Bremer moved to New York 25 years ago, making it his home. He lives and works in the neighborhood, his studio situated at the cozy intersection of Banker and N 15th. Across the street, sits the San Damiano Mission Church. Originally riding the line between church and community center, one day Bremer noticed the church’s old wooden doors were replaced with inviting glass ones. No doubt curious, Bremer walked in, finding two Franciscan monks that are working to renovate the space, as well as bring it back to its initial goal—community.
Sanctuary is a multi-media arts festival celebrating community, spirituality and creative expression. Spanning 20 days of installations, performances and events, Sanctuary will feature works from a variety of creative disciplines, including fine art, music, choreography, literature, comedy, film, sociology and more.
Dutch artist Sebastiaan Bremer first started out recreating his own photographs with paint. In 1998, he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he trialled his now [signature] style of drawing on photographs. Part of a wider series, this piece originates from a box of negatives Sebastiaan discovered featuring images of his parents and siblings on holiday in the Alps in 1973. (He had been too young to go.) “It is hard to make profound remarks about happiness for some reason,” he says, reflecting on his practice. “Perhaps it’s related to what is said about how hard it is to make a good comedy film; it’s easier to faithfully depict drama. For me it is, anyway.”
New York–based Dutch artist Sebastiaan Bremer mines extant images for his photographic alterations; his sources are usually personal, but he also looks for images that carry wider cultural implications. He is interested in how we consume images: what does a photographic image signify? Which archetypes does it represent and what personal meanings does it carry? In an effort to bring forth latent associations, Bremer makes free-associative changes to his found photographs—either adding or subtracting, or both.
Sebastiaan Bremer's new monograph To Joy is now available through Frame Publishers!
Goings On About Town: Art
There has been a lot of painted photography in town lately (Sam Falls’s recent outing at Higher Pictures, Sarah Anne Johnson’s current show at Saul), but Bremer’s is the most sophisticated, the most excessive, and the most extraordinary.