Andrea Marie Breiling at Almine Rech
Have you ever walked into a dream? Yes, this may seem to be a cul-de-sac of a question that borders on the cliché by being rhetorical, but I want to meditate a little deeper on this. In recent memory, have you entered a space and felt, however humbly, that you are able to leave the outside world exactly there? Such an idea is surely too tempting in our world of round-the-clock, pervasive news and media.
Yet, pursuing a pipe dream feels within reach in the medium of painting, and these moments of hope feel integrated into American artist Andrea Marie Breiling's new body of work 'Sweet Dreams of Rhythm and Dancing' at Almine Rech's Grosvenor Hill space in central London. The gallery's location in a somewhat hidden part of Mayfair brings an instant element of intrigue, and despite the renowned status of Almine Rech and the show's traditional curation style, there is a facet of magic at play in Breiling's paintings, which I am excited to explore further.
One palpable strength of the exhibition is how coherent the paintings are as a body of work, as well as being arresting independently. No explicit narrative is forced upon the viewer, hence my opening question on dreams and breaking through the drudgery of reality. Bright and beautiful hues and line configurations create canvases that are memorably stunning and truly joyful to behold. Using spray paint, the artist produces swirling yet stationary visuals on fairly grand scales, somewhat reminiscent of Dreamtime Australian Aboriginal ideas, and of course spray paint has a history of its own. Titles of individual works become unimportant as the exhibition alchemises into an experience; the paintings come together as something of a design element of the immediate environment.
With pretense of content stripped away, we are left able to open our minds and sensory faculties to the gorgeous colour palettes and patterns on the canvases. Breiling doesn't use a limited palette, yet her style is strong and distinctive. By not using the same colours, it is easier to form individual narratives about the works, which still remain personal, or at least feel that way.
There are various reasons as to why the paintings feel both personally affecting and majestic. 'Glow Run', for example, reminds me of the work of nineteenth century Surrealist painter Georgiana Houghton. The natural environment at large is another motif in the exhibition, not expressed directly, but with shades and tones of greens expressed in chaotic gestures which offer something different to the clinical and artificially calm ways that are found in more illustrative styles commonly found in art rooted in ecology or nature. The colours are so powerful that the viewer starts reading and interpreting them freely; one particular work has swirling greens, before an explosion of black and purple tones feels like violent intervention. While this might be perceived as an oversensitive observation, the artist employs this delicately, expressing a disruption of peace, or in Breiling's case: dreams.
So we've seen nature and modern and indigenous artistic influences in this body of work, but if we revisit this core idea of dreams, we can see Breiling's work as a visual analogy, an escape from not only the mundane (although of course dreams can often be frustratingly opaque or banal) but also the explicit anxieties we bear. In 'Sweet Dreams of Rhythm and Dancing', there is no universal truth, nor even an agreed, objective perception to formulate. This is how the exhibition deliciously completes itself and produces a similar affect to dreaming (or at least how we feel after dreaming), and how we collectively think about it. Almine Rech's space, tucked away from the main buzz of Mayfair, is a gorgeous treat that is hard not to appreciate at the very least, if not fall madly in love.