Simone Brewster’s Paintings Articulate the Complexity of the Female Form and Psyche

London-based Simone Brewster regularly creates furniture, sculpture, objects, jewelry, and more—like a creative ouroboros, her practice is fluid, with each medium informing, influencing, and inspiring the other. And while the pandemic has certainly caused its share of widespread closures, cancellations, and general upheaval, in some instances it has also created surprising opportunities for creativity and experimentation. Unable to get to her studio due to lockdown protocols early on in the pandemic, Brewster decided to tackle painting, a medium she’d always been interested in but never had the time to explore — until now.

Brewster describes the lead-up to her new painting series, titled “Woman in Parts”: “I studied architecture, so I have experience in drawing, but I would consider myself more of a three-dimensional maker. But, during this lockdown, I had to follow restrictions and couldn’t go to the studio. So, I started to do some painting, and I really enjoyed it.” Anchored by sweeping, calligraphic strokes in dark blue or black, often accented with bright teal, yellow, blue or pink, the ink-on-paper paintings have the spirit of Matisse’s nude cut-outs yet imply the volume of a Beverly Pepper or Brancusi sculpture. Highly abstract, the paintings articulate the complexity of the female form and psyche. In some works, sparse curves immediately conjure the plane of a back or the sweep of a thigh; in other instances, the imagery eludes instantaneous recognition, and one finds themselves turning their head sideways to delineate parts to assemble together in one’s mind.

Though the impetus to begin painting may have been circumstantial and serendipitous, the concept behind the work is intentional. Brewster explains: “I’ve been thinking about how society places a lot of pressure on the female body. When talking about a woman there is a tendency to say she has a nice fill-in-the-blank body part. She’s always the sum of her parts, or singled-out for the various roles that she plays — mother or wife for example — and never her whole.” Brewster first addressed these ideas about the female body in her “Negress & Mammy” side table and chaise longue, which also incisively tackle the complicated history and legacy of colonialism, slavery, servitude, and race. It is only by deconstructing complicated histories and opaque systems of power that we can hope to have a clearer, brighter future.

As for her current work, Brewster has created almost a hundred paintings, and she is ready to move on to canvas. Eventually, a sculpture will be created from the ideas that have been processed through the paintings. Unwittingly tying her art practice to the ultimate act of creation that only women hold, Brewster concludes: “I definitely have a sculpture in me. By the end of this month it’s going to have to come out.”
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