Studio Visit: Colleen RJC Bratton
Colleen RJC Bratton is an artist living and working in Seattle. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's January 2018 exhibition as well as colleenrjcbratton.com.
Please describe your work.
For the past four years I’ve worked primarily with found fabrics. Two years ago I added painting on panel to the equation. The soft edge of fabric rubbing up against a hard wooden surface makes so much sense to me; it makes the work sing. I tend to stick with wall-mounted works, but once a year I try do a large-scale, fabric-based, interactive installation. My color palette is heavy on the warm tones; it helps to offset the grey, green, and blue of Seattle that tend to make me lethargic. I’m currently beefing up my machine knitting and scroll saw skills in hopes of implementing them into my practice in the near future. I’m also a member at artist-run SOIL gallery here in Seattle with a crew of incredible artists. We put on monthly shows in the Pioneer Square arts district. Look for our open call for shows coming up in March.
What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
Most of my work looks into the relationship between self and space over time. For the past two years I’ve been looking at public transportation and the interaction between that space and the people in it. This interest started during my time in New York witnessing the lifeblood of the city: the subway system. Within my work color, shape, and textural choices are influenced by the emotions and energies found in specific moments I’ve experienced or witnessed. The works’ titles shed insight into the original context: “Common Denominator” was inspired by a time on a Seattle bus when I realized that the double-length bus was divided by skin color (one color was in the front and the other in the back). It was perplexing to me so I chose to make a work that showed how these colors complement one together. The oval orifice within the piece serves as a direct drawing of the architecture of the bus and also represents the birth canal/origin we all share.
Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
If we were looking big hitters I’d definitely saw Agnes Martin, Robert Irwin, and Frank Stella. What I’ve learned from Martin and Irwin is to slow down. Both artists practice a hyper-awareness of their surroundings. They heavily weigh each choice they make in the studio for its conceptual ramifications and possible interpretations. The reason I love minimalism so much is because it allows for a myriad of interpretations while existing in an intense experiential plane. I try to consider these same notions in my own practice as well. Like minimalists, I try to eliminate non-essentials from my composition. Unlike them, however, I do add personalized details that create more of a narrative. I add these narrative entry points because I have a deep desire to create work that can be easily accessible for the non-artist. Other more contemporary artists that I’ve been digging lately are: Holly Coulis, Nat Meade, Julie Curtiss, Drew Miller, Orion Martin and Angela Heisch. They’re all painters/drawers who are highly skilled but who infuse their work with a playfulness that I admire. It took me awhile to realize how much humor was in my own work. Now that I see it, I embrace it.
How has social media affected your studio practice?
My dad is a landscape photographer, so growing up I constantly was looking for the “good shot”. I think Instagram has only heightened that awareness for me. It helps me recognize stellar compositions within different architectural environments and picture them totally flattened. I take this flatness and use it to abstract. Social media has made me document my work way more than I ever did before. I like to mess with the flatness in artwork documentation by creating these subtleties in my work that you can only see in person. That way there is an incentive/reward for physically coming to my shows! Most people who see my work in person are shocked at how different they feel in person. It’s all because of that rubbing between the hard, painted surface and the fabric that I mentioned earlier. Social media has connected me with dozens of artists and galleries around the world. When I visit a different city, I don’t come in cold but instead can reach out to artists or galleries who I’ve been following for some time, skip the basics and get into meatier conversations. It was really difficult for me to leave NYC in 2016, but social media has helped keep me in the loop. It also fuels the F.O.M.O. flame that motivates me to visit NYC and LA at least once a year. Instagram allows me to fuel other people’s F.O.M.O. flames and incentivize people to visit Seattle.