Christopher Le Brun PRA

Forest

1987–8

Medium
Oil paint on 2 canvases
Dimensions
Displayed: 2355 x 5660 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1989
Reference
T05533

Display caption

Le Brun's work moves between abstraction and recognizable subject matter. He works slowly in oils, building up the surface of the painting gradually. As a result of this process, enigmatic motifs such as a single wing, or cypress trees, emerge from the rich texture of the paint. Le Brun discourages specific interpretations of these images. He has stated: 'The image must always be beyond complete understanding' and has quoted the philosopher Heidegger's comment that 'meaning is where the interpretations lie thickest'. The sense of mystery and impenetrability which LeBrun identifies in his art is epitomised in this image of a forest. It recalls Le Brun's observation: 'I have a vision of painting as the uncut forest'.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

Painted in Berlin, the painting was executed on two stretched linen canvases, primed by the artist. The left canvas was purchased in Berlin and primed with acrylic gesso primer from Lascaux. The right canvas, brought to Berlin from London, is a Belgian linen canvas supplied by Russell and Chapple and prepared by the artist with a sizing of thinned polyvinyl acetate or acrylic medium, and primed with two coats of Brodie and Middleton's oil canvas primer. Both canvases are stretched onto expandable wood stretchers, with double thickness outer bars, made for the artist in Berlin.

The painting was executed in artists' oil paints from Spectrum Oil Colours, thinned with mixtures of white spirit and linseed oil. The quantity of oil in the painting medium was increased as the work progressed to reduce the likelihood of excessive 'sinking' of the top layers of paint.

The left canvas was painted first, beginning with a globe like image in the centre which evolved into the present image, the right canvas being added later. Covering a whole wall in the artists' studio, the two canvases created a mural like effect lit from the left. Applied broadly in many layers of broken brushwork, the paint is scumbled over previous work, scraped back and reworked wet-into-wet. The left canvas, being the first started and closer to the light source in the studio, is more extensively worked than the right.

The painting is not varnished, retaining the variety of surface variations which are essential to creating the subtle effects of depth and recession. It is not framed, leaving the messy edges of the canvases clearly visible which emphasise the appearance of the painting as a 'tablet of colour'.