M+B is pleased to present Oh, Christopher, an exhibition of new works by Brett Charles Seiler. This is the artist's first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition opens July 9, 2022 and will run through August 27, 2022 with an opening reception on Saturday, July 9 from 2 to 5 pm.
Through his paintings, Brett Seiler creates an interior world which wavers between desire and anxiety. He explores the male body, domestic space, poetry, Queer history, Biblical symbolism, love, and alienation, as well as the possibilities of painting as a medium. His experimentation with material, color, and line has culminated in a unique and carefully honed style. In his search for materials which are both evocative and easily accessible, Seiler’s early paintings included found objects such as old, black-and-white photographs and fabric. Though these objects have mostly been stripped away from his most recent paintings, they have been absorbed as visual strategy. The photographs are present in the snapshot-like, narrative atmosphere of the depicted scenes, and in the color palette and tones. The interest in fabric can be seen in his treatment of the canvas as an important part of the finished work. The rawness of the surface and the sketched quality of the lines add to the feeling that we are witnessing a brief, urgent moment in time which has passed but been memorialized.
Even in the more conventional of Seiler’s painted scenes, the void-like backgrounds add an enticing ambiguity to the works. They become otherworldly. In some cases, they offer a vision of an untouched heaven, but more often they have the texture of a dream (or nightmare). You can see familiar objects – a houseplant, a thrifted mid-modernist chair, a parquet floor – and yet the surroundings remain alien and unstable. Perspective is unsturdy, with flatness and depth being represented alongside each other. The most fascinating visual element is the male subjects. The lines of the figures feel fragile, as if they could be washed away into their surroundings at any moment. Their poses, and the way that they hold and touch each other, tell stories which are never fully revealed. In looking at Seiler’s bodies, I am reminded of Cézanne’s group and solo studies of nude, awkwardly-posed but still sensual men. However, the symbolic, narrative quality of Seiler’s paintings differs from Cézanne’s limited variations of bathers in front of bodies of water.
Seiler’s recent series of paintings are rich with visual references, the most apparent example being the flood of water in Escape, and Fishing Rod. The domestic space is destabilized by what appears to be an apocalyptic event. In Oh Christopher, a man kneels before another, like a sinner asking for Christ’s salvation, but also like a man seeking solace from his lover. There are also art historical references, such as the painting within the painting in Fishing Rod and the portrait of the artist as reclining nude. Words and poetry are another important aspect of Seiler’s practice. His works have included comic but tragic anecdotes, love letters, and references to Queer culture. Here, he references the legendary Fire Island. The ‘Coke/cock bottle’ which appears often within the paintings and as an editioned sculptural object, allows for a moment of erotic humor.
All of these visual elements offer a sensitive navigation of his own experiences as a gay man who has lived through shame and alienation, as well as love – and the joy and anxiety that comes with it. As seen in works such as the Gay Alphabet series, Seiler is not afraid to engage directly with the political, but he makes the politics of gender and sexuality feel intimate and immediate. Beyond this personal/political lens, the works are an expression of his passion for artistic practice itself – through both the physical act of painting, and the history of art and culture.
- Khanya Mashabela
Brett Charles Seiler (b. 1994, Zimbabwe) graduated from Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2015. Recent solo exhibitions include Timber at Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town and Closet at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. He has also participated in the group exhibitions including hothouse at Sixty Six, London; In Between Dreams at Galerie EIGEN + ART, Leipzig; In Conversation at Everard Read, Cape Town; and Multiplicities Vol1: Continuous Unknowing, New York. His July 2022 exhibition at M+B will mark his solo show debut in North America. In 2017, he was recognized by the prestigious African-based artist competition, ABSA Atelier. Seiler currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.
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