Brittany Ferns is an Australian Visual Artist based in Newcastle, NSW. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Communication and Design and spent ten years working as a textile designer and graphic designer in Sydney and Los Angeles. She now lives in Newcastle, Australia with her husband Ben, son Zali, daughter Edie and dog Coco.
On first glance, Brittany Ferns paintings depict a snapshot of tropical landscapes; of swaying palms, of a calm ocean framed by rolling green hills in the distance. But look a little closer, and her works reveal a more profound connection to place, memory and history. Within Ferns paintings is an inherent longing for the past, for postcards that imply “from where you’d rather be”, and idyllic images that contain within their small space, a nostalgia for the discovery of new places, and the passage of time through memory.
Her use of text within her works such as, ‘El Platano’ – a banana, is perhaps a discreet nod to the Surrealists and Magritte’s iconic, ‘The Treachery of Images’. Just like Magritte, Ferns communicates that this painting of a banana is not a real banana, but a symbol of a banana.
Parallel to this theory is that her paintings are not directly painted from life, but are in fact a direct manifestation from her imagination, creating a tranquil place for the mind to rest in such a hectic world. In the sense her portraits are controlled, her subjects denoting stiff stoic poses, they are in fact of no one in particular but iconographic to Mexican culture, inspired by the naïve style of twentieth century painter Frida Kahlo.
Her soft, muted palette, while philosophically decorative, is a strong component to her visual language. Although serving to control the painting, to relax the viewer and evoke a sense of calm, her pastel palette communicates that these images are thematically ephemeral, decayed and sun bleached, connoting a sense of the destruction of time.
Ferns process involves the physical scraping back of the surface to reveal hidden layers; the metaphorical truth, urban decay, a dying culture. She speaks to the ephemerality of time; of street art and holiday postcards. The question seems to remain, is she scraping away the decay of a wall to reveal a hidden image, or is she revealing a truth, hidden behind a constructed barrier? No matter the answer, the idea of the Japanese Wabi-Sabi philosophy comes to mind – that there is beauty in imperfection; nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
Words by Joey Hespe.
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