Stephen Brandes’ practice explores the interplay of word and visual language as a vehicle for storytelling, with particular reference to travel fiction and European traditions of absurdism and satire.
For several years he embarked on a series of very large, highly detailed drawings on floor vinyl, which charted a perpetually expanding fictional universe – the genesis of which was a journey through contemporary Eastern and central Europe, following a route his grandmother had made in 1913, escaping pogroms in Romania.
More recently, he commenced a body of work which not only includes drawing and painting, but monumental posters, signage, collage, printed publications and digital slideshows.
This recent work has been fueled by a growing interest in pictorial languages from the recent past, and how these languages have been adopted; from the avant-gardes and totalitarian aesthetics of the early 20th century to the graphic sensibilities of more recent years. His re-engagement with these forms is not out of nostalgia, but rather for the purpose of misappropriation, in order to create objects and images that hover between potency and wrongness, authority and absurdity.
While the ‘travelogue’ is a central motif in this current body of work, he allows for sub-plots and departures, fed by personal observations, invention and references to episodes in modern European history, considering our relationship to both the landscape and the constructed world from oblique cultural perspectives. It also attempts to consider our shared histories and future with a measured mixture of poignancy and gallows humour.
Stephen Brandes was born in Wolverhampton, UK in 1966 and now lives and works in Cork after moving to Ireland in 1993. He represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2005 as part of ‘Ireland at Venice’, and has shown in numerous exhibitions both in Ireland and internationally.
Brandes has also worked on several curatorial projects, most notably Superbia, commissioned by Breaking Ground in Ballymun, Dublin, 2003 and "Beasts of England , Beasts of Ireland" at Visual, Carlow, 2013. With artists Mick O’Shea and Irene Murphy, he formed the absurdist culinary performance group, The Domestic Godless.
© Stephen Brandes 2016