Alice Brasser lives and works in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
That image in my head. (Text: Rob Perrée)
Not that Alice Brasser does not go for nature. On the contrary: I live in Haarlem. I bike around here and I like to see how nature keeps changing all the time. I also paint landscapes on location sometimes. But when I am back in my studio, I dont know, I still put people back in. A transformation takes place. I feel the need to transform reality. She compares this feeling of dissatisfaction with the effect of a photo you just made of a beautiful landscape. The photo does not reproduce what you saw. For Brasser, the ultimate goal of painting is precisely to face up to that image in your head.There is no lack of images in Brassers head. Her oeuvre forms an impressive and diverse collection of stills and scenes taken from stories. What the stories tell is not always clear. And they dont have to be. She does not want them to be. Sometimes, the title gives a hint. Sometimes the space gives an indication. In another work, it is the posture of the people that draws your attention. Often, the artist only stimulates the observers curiosity and then leaves the rest to his or her imagination. For example, in that painting where a black man and three white women sit together and look fascinated in the same direction (The Carpet). What is happening outside of the image? Are they just watching television or is there something more happening? On another painting Drukke nacht # 2 ghostlike figures have come together in the woods. Do they have something to celebrate? Are they holding a mysterious, ritual meeting? On a large canvas with the neutral title Nearby Gibraltar stands a figure, cloaked in a long mantle and holding a stick in his right hand, and looking out at the water. It is dark. The contours on the other shore are not visible. Is this the representation of an unfulfilled longing? Is this someone who believes his deliverance can be found in another better place? Is this situation dangerous?A large part of the transformation process is achieved by the way in which Alice Brasser paints. She has many ways to steal the ball away from flat reality. Color is one of them. It looks as if all the colors on her canvases are at least one degree off. They do not want to fit in. They exaggerate reality; they grant reality another atmosphere or they leave reality completely behind them. What is striking is the role of black. It would have been quite straightforward to associate this color with something somber. But I doubt that this is something Brasser intends. Instead I believe she is searching for effective contrasts, for a way to give her stories extra intensity.The (oil) paint is rarely put on the canvas in traditional strokes. Spots would be a better word. Sometimes there are collections of colorful drops. Then a combination of watery, hesitating areas. In a few works, she has drawn rough outlines of people against lively backgrounds. Chalk drawing and painting come together here in a seamless weave. From other details too it is clear that Alice Brasser loves to paint and that each time she tries out new technical possibilities. She is indifferent to what is conventional and to what one is supposed to do.Alice Brasser has no difficulty naming the artists she admires. She envies Francisco Goya for the way he gives his work an emotional charge. In some works she also seems to refer to his political engagement. (In Survivor from 2009/10, for example, she refers to the killing field, a guilty landscape from the First World War). In her way of painting she is also influenced by the German artist Daniel Richter, though she has less affinity with the theatrical aspect of his work. Her stories remain closer to her own environment.Alice Brasser is an artist who wins the observer over to her stories and to the extraordinary way she reproduces them.
Rob Perrée, January 2010
Rob Perrée is a writer and curator. He also writes articles for the Dutch art magazine Kunstbeeld.