Artist Review – Alice Bradshaw

Alice Bradshaw: Manipulating The Mundane
By Chris Brunelle

A central technique that seems apparent in the work of Alice Bradshaw is a re-organization of the ordinary.  Much like the technique of many successful comedians, Bradshaw takes day-to-day objects and manipulates them with a clever and distorting simplicity that is interesting, engaging, and at times entertaining.  Her palate can range from a tissue to a whole room.

In her Brown Paper Bags project that she has a blogspot devoted to, the materials are self-explanatory.  In one piece, she cuts the brown paper bags into equal sized squares that are strung together from a corner small hole punch.  It’s a fairly unremarkable sounding process, yet the result makes a normally forgettable object look similar to elegant modern jewelry. In another piece, she uses the ring from a coffee cup to stain a bag.  It’s something that most coffee drinkers have done probably many times in their life but never taken notice of.  Bradshaw is reminding us to take a look and notice such details. The result is surprisingly interesting and aesthetically pleasing in a way that connects directly with the life experience of the viewer. Thus, it suggests that people sometimes create something artistic without even realizing it.  The coffee circle has a hard inner boundary, while the outer circle leaks like ink making the outer ring of the sphere look alive similar to close-up shots of the sun’s surface.

In Untitled (2006 branches mended with sellotape), Bradshaw uses the sellotape as a joiner between what looks like two pieces of the same branch.  When the branches line up, the repeating pattern of their white sellotape middles gives the collection a harmony. Even close up, the sellotape looks like solid quartz stone.  It’s shiny and mends like a spider web.  The inclusion of branches in this piece makes obvious the subtle similarity I see between her approach and that of Andy Goldsworthy.  In many ways, they couldn’t be more different artists, however, they both have an interest in the world as they find it and how to rearrange the materials they find in that world.  Bradshaw’s work doesn’t dwell in the natural world as much as it does the world of consumer household products.  The branches are the crossover objects of these two worlds in the sense that they are objects you could see as easily on the way back to your apartment in the city as you could on a walk through the woods.

The ink drawings on tissue paper that are called, Untitled (2005), are a particularly strong and clever juxtaposition of mundane and stylized.  The drawings look like a high contrast bust of a fashionable looking model.  The high-contrast look reminds of the times when high fashion takes on a more artistic look.  This positioning of high-end chic culture on a tissue does what people in Bradshaw’s native England refer to as “taking the piss” out of the whole thing.  Beyond being intriguing to look at, it sure seems to have a message that cuts that culture down to size.

Her piece, Doodle (2005) literally made me chuckle out loud.  It contains a couple obvious levels of cleverness.  First off, the material description reads, “Pencil on paper.”  In most cases, this combination refers to a drawing.  In Bradshaw’s case, the meaning is more literal as we see that it is a distorted pencil atop a cube of paper.  Secondly, the doodle does not refer to a drawing of gibberish on the paper by means of the pencil.  It refers to the bent and distorted shape of the pencil that mimics that of a doodle.

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Mint Residue (2006) appears to be the most time consuming piece in her portfolio and is the result of the artist scrubbing down a room with toothpaste using a toothbrush twice a day for an unspecified amount of time.  As you may guess, the room is quite white.  It covers every crevasse like a fresh fallen snow.  The highlight for me is the windows.  She scrubs the lower third of the windows creating a frosted box.  In the photo showing the windows to this room from the outside of the building, it looks like a more conventional tint an interior designer would add to give an apartment a little flash of style.

Overall, Alice Bradshaw had an effect on me as a viewer that I don’t experience enough.  She made me look closer at every piece. In every case, I discovered something more intriguing about it than the previous viewing offered.  Her work has layers that not only please in a strictly visual visceral way, but also in a thoughtful and clever way.  Even now, I wonder if there are subtleties rich in meaning that I’ve somehow overlooked.  With Bradshaw’s work, it’s entirely possible.  She tricks the viewer by using mundane objects.  It sets up the pieces to have a humble and unassuming quality that might make some viewers not take particular notice of the deeper levels.  Her interest in random and seemingly unremarkable objects gives her art a strong relation to modern day-to-day reality and reveals Bradshaw’s most remarkable trait:  she makes the details we may all overlook at some point more noticeable and more meaningful.  If you would like to see and learn more about Alice Bradshaw, I encourage you to visit her website.

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