Brendan Jamison name








"it's such a pleasure to welcome a real sculptor who has a deft, playful touch, as well as an over-active imagination." Brian McAvera

   SCULPTURE magazine, July/August 2009, published by The International Sculpture Center, New Jersey, USA


Aesthetica Magazine Blog

Aesthetica engages with contemporary art, contextualising it within the larger cultural framework. The Aesthetica Blog keeps you up-to-date with reviews, previews both from the UK and abroad. For further information on Aesthetica Magazine please visit

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Androgynous Aesthetics: Interview with Brendan Jamison

Blue Bridge

For the past seven years the Northern Irish based artist, Brendan Jamison has amassed a significant body of work. Jamison appropriates diverse media including wax, wool, sugar cubes and pins to create a wide range of sculptural outcomes that explore binary polarities. Comparisons can be made to works by artists such as Jim Lambie, Phyllida Barlow, Georg Herold, Thomas Houseago, Mike Kelley and Anselm Reyle.

Angela Darby interviewed Jamison to consider the relationship between his work and the curatorial project The Warning Art Gallery.

AD: What are the central concerns within your art practice?

BJ: As a sculptor, I tend to explore materials and colours with certain distinctive gender codes, seeking to play-off the material of the sculpture against the actual form of the finished work. This often occurs in a fun and playful fashion. With wool, the gentle, non-violent and comforting femininity of the material is often used to transform a formal wooden structure with masculine undertones. The spontaneous fluidity of wax offers an equally seductive combination to soften or animate the harshness of the object, be it a hard-hat or submarine. The same is true of sugar, this time offering a multi-sensory experience. Aside from the sweetness of the taste, the sparkles suggest a magical fairytale quality. This is contrasted to the very formal building block of the sugar cube, referencing the bricks from the masculine-dominated construction industry. In essence, through striking a balance between these two forces within my practice, blurring the boundaries between gender and sexualities, I seek to create non-figurative objects with an androgynous aesthetic.

AD: What influences have played a role in the development of these concerns?

BJ: Ancient Eastern philosophies from Hinduism to Buddhism, Confucius in China and also early Greek writings. Within the contemporary art world, sculptures by Anish Kapoor have been a large influence, as has the edgier works by Tracey Emin, André Stitt and Jenny Saville. Inspiration always comes from works that offer a challenge, both visually and conceptually, to push the boundaries through a fresh perspective that expands the viewer’s outlook towards a greater level of open-mindedness.

AD: Do these concerns inform your curatorial practice?

BJ: Yes. Definitely. Rebelling against institutional and historical conditioning to offer a more liberated perspective is very important. Identity issues of gender and sexuality play a huge part in my curated projects, in particular contemporary feminist approaches such as the video works by Welsh artist Miranda Whall and the drawings by Belfast-based artists Gail Ritchie and Lydia Holmes. On the homosexual front, Hernan Bas and Ciaran Magill’s homo-subliminal narratives offer a refreshing alternative to the male figure. But the complexities of the metro-sexual perspective have now risen to become as equally alluring, as evidenced in the ceramic sculptures by Patrick Colhoun, delicately balancing violence and brutality on the one hand, with fragility and spiritual liberation on the other.

AD: What motivated you to extend your relationship to art from producer to promoter?

BJ: For many years now, I have been engaged in mentoring programmes to assist recent graduates and often find some of our greatest local talent do not get picked-up by the conservatively-safe private galleries. This is because the commercial scene in Belfast is extremely backward, preferring to deal in romantic Irish landscape and very decorative figurative sculpture. Therefore the edgy contemporary art collectors travel to London, Berlin and New York to buy art and bring it back to Northern Ireland. The Belfast art market needs to catch-up with the trends in the contemporary art capitals of the world. This is why I have teamed up with a progressive art collector, Brian Nixon, to run the Warning Art projects and since the beginning of our quest 6 months ago, Brian has already sold many artworks to new collectors, opening up channels to expand the whole ethos of The Warning Art Gallery. This breathes life back into artists working in the studio, generating confidence that they do not need to compromise their edgy style to accommodate the conservative galleries.

AD: Most recently you have been associated with sugar cube sculptures that are formally restrained; how does the confrontational nature of the artworks contained within The Warning Art Gallery sit within your practice?

BJ: The earliest sugar sculptures from 2004 (titled IN-BETWEEN from the MFA show) were a blurring of the boundaries between organic and architectural forms but also between masculine and feminine forms. Phallic towers rose high into the air but instead of a solid bulbous head, they opened like flowers at the top. Another free-standing sugar tower was deliberately collapsed across the floor, as if it had erupted or exploded into a million little atoms. The sides of the sugar sculptures also contained womb-shaped entrances; therefore the artworks at The Warning Art Gallery actually deal with very similar subject matter, and also in quite a fun and playful fashion.

It is also crucial that the shows are curated in an interesting format and as an artist who creates every series of sculptures as an installation, negotiating space and the interplay of different elements is very similar to the vision required to unite the conceptual threads and placement of works in a themed exhibition. A strong rhythm is crucial, as certain works punctuate the gallery, they guide the viewer on a particular route or series of directions. Introducing elements that challenge the audience can also be rewarding.

AD: What projects are forthcoming for The Warning Art Gallery?

BJ: On May 25th, we are launching a major international exhibition of 26 artists, including two from America, Professor Sean Miller from theUniversity of Florida and a recent Masters graduate, Galen Olmsted. Professor André Stitt is travelling over from Wales to officially open the show so it promises to be a very special evening. After the initial group show which ends on June 15, we will be returning to our regular studio visits to continue plans for our second group show on a different theme and also to develop upcoming solo projects.

The Warning Art Gallery, 25/05/2012 until 15/06/2012, The Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Road, Belfast, BT7 1NH.

Courtesy the artist

Text: Angela Darby




Aesthetica Magazine Blog

Aesthetica engages with contemporary art, contextualising it within the larger cultural framework.
The Aesthetica Blog keeps you up-to-date with reviews, previews both from the UK and abroad.
For further information on Aesthetica Magazine please visit


Friday, 30 December 2011

Contemporary Art in Northern Ireland | Parliament Buildings | Stormont

Text by Angela Darby

Below the gilded King Edward VII chandeliers and between the Italian travertine engraved marble walkway the exhibition Contemporary Art in Northern Ireland is situated in The Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont. The exhibition’s curator Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Arts and Acquisitions at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, states: “The invitation from the Speaker to bring this exhibition to Parliament Buildings is an important opportunity to champion our artists... business leaders will cite the strength of a society’s arts and culture as a key factor influencing any decision to invest...” Staging the exhibition in Stormont is a positive step to improving public access and additionally the political decision makers who allocate cultural funds can view firsthand the quality of the works on display. The 24 selected artists are drawn from emerging and established artists. Miguel Martin (b.1985), a talented young artist pays homage to an established artist with an intricate, detailed line drawing entitled Neil Shawcross’s Studio Space whilst internationally recognised artist Colin Darke (b.1957) raises questions concerning intellectual copyright and appropriation in his painting Mannish Boy V – Policeman. This breadth of practice is well represented throughout the exhibition.

Brendan Jamison’s (b.1979) large impressive sculpture Yellow Helicopter shares it’s eyeline with the bronze statue of Sir James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, is. The striking work grabs the viewers’ attention with its skeletal composition and bright woolly draped flesh. The piece sits in The Hall as an ironic testament to the military occupation of Northern Ireland’s past. Artists such as Christopher McCambridge and Jennifer Trouton seem to relate metaphorically to the environment. In Re-interpretation: Falling for Grandeur, McCambridge meticulously stitches his canvas with royal blue, blossom pink and turquoise threads. The chinoiserie wallpaper referenced is rendered by the artist’s physical action into a luxurious tapestry, an historical artefact echoing the affluence of the architectural environment within which it hangs. Trouton’s oil on linen painting Harrow captures a similar sensibility. An intricate photo-realist painting of a textured blanket draped over a chair suggests a story of comfort and tranquillity. But the fragments of broken crockery strewn and discarded beside the chair disturb the picture’s equilibrium. As the painting’s title suggests there is no room for harmony.

Simon McWilliams’ oil on canvas, Stairwell captures a fragment of Belfast’s prolific re-development that spread throughout the city like a raging virus. Resembling invasive weeds on a riverbank, green fluorescent netting and scaffolding provide a stagnant ‘still’ from an emergent tower block’s metamorphic growth. Caught in a frozen moment the image reveals the city’s faltering regeneration. The artists Terry McAllister, Gareth Reid, Gail Ritchie and Robert Peters poignantly capture aspects of rural landscapes and woodlands. Ritchie’s Dead Tree, a fine graphite pencil drawing on paper, hauntingly commemorates the traditional 12th of July Orange March to the field in Edenderry Village, Belfast. The faces of menacing sprites and gargoyles emerge from the gnarled bark and twisted knots on the tree’s decaying surface. The tree’s totemic symbolism seems to point to a time before the transformation of the province’s political situation and a time when one community had a monopoly over the other. Robert Peters’ digital print, entitled Uccello of the Potato Field I and II, portrays a traditional children’s game played in the potato fields on his family farm during the 1970s. This is not a game of childish innocence however but one of brutal combat as the sport’s object is to target and hurt one’s opponent by hurling potatoes propelled from the sticks. Peters has arranged the composition of his improvised weaponry to correspond with the upright lances in The Battle of San Romano (1438-1440) by the Florentine painter Paolo Uccello.

In the works by Zoe Murdoch, Maria McKinney, Shaleen Temple and Carrie McKee there is a polar presence of escapism and capture. Murdoch’s sensitive and melancholic sculpture Oh Muse Be Near Me Now and Make a Strange Song is dedicated to a long distanced correspondence. The anatomical objects and printed text contained within the small wooden box form clues to the artists’ reflection on the frustrations of a relationship spent apart. Maria McKinney examines the pursuit of leisure time and the activities devised to combat monotony in an appropriated jigsaw composition The Earl of Leicester. The photographic portraits by Temple and McKee poignantly narrate the condition of each of their subject’s entrapment. From the series entitled Boys and Girls, Temple’s documentation of South African servants exposes a world of subordination and subservience. The artist’s subject, Jerita stands tentatively in the interior of her employer’s home in Johannesburg. The red wall’s arch and dark wooden furniture frames and engulfs Jerita, the very objects that define her occupation seem to imprison her. Temple draws attention to these domestic servants who would otherwise be overlooked and in so doing she credits them with the recognition that they deserve. McKee chooses the backdrop of derelict Belfast cityscapes for her stunning depictions of young dancers. In Orlaigh (2011), a girl poses defensively with her arms folded; she is dressed in a bright orange and fuchsia coloured costume, a large pink blossom frames her face. This beautiful, ‘tiger lily’ sprouts with strength and determination from the desolate wasteland, waiting for her hopes and aspirations to be fulfilled.

One can easily imagine how Stormont’s opulent surroundings and ornate architectural features might overshadow the exhibiting works, rendering them undistinguished and lacking in impact. Surprisingly this is not the case; Dr Lyle’s strong curatorial vision corresponds with the context of this stately environment.

Contemporary Art in Northern Ireland, 21/11/2011 - 04/01/2012, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.






All images © Brendan Jamison 2008-2012