Open Frequency 2010: Brendan Jamison selected by Sanna Moore

Open Frequency 2010: Brendan Jamison selected by Sanna Moore Brendan Jamison, Helen's Tower, 2009. 87 x 39 x 37 cms. Carved sugar cubes and glue

Curator Sanna Moore profiles the work of sculptor Brendan Jamison

Brendan Jamison’s sculptures are a set of contradictions: masculine/feminine, fragile/solid, organic/architectural. He takes inspiration from the New British Sculptors of the early 1980s, such as Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor. He works in a variety of organic materials including wood, wool, wax and sugar. Each material represents a different strand to his work which is developed concurrently, as he changes his focus from one material to another. Each time he revisits a material his knowledge and understanding of its properties deepens, thereby taking his practice to another level.

Jamison’s use of the sugar cube is perhaps the material which has drawn the most critical attention to his work. Using the sugar cube as a building block he created a series of biomorphic sculptures for his MA show, In-Between, at the University of Ulster, 2004. This series of seven narrow towers (the tallest is almost three metres high) stood precariously as if they could topple over at any moment. Jamison’s sculpture references a range of architectural styles; In-Between was inspired by the architecture of Islamic Minarettes, Hindu Temples and buildings within the science-fiction genre.

The laborious and time-consuming process of creating the sugar cube pieces takes months of repetitive labour. Each cube is attached to the next with PVA glue in an intricate and dexterous process of building, recalling Jamison’s childhood obsession with constructing forms in Lego. The sugar cube form gives him a similar material to work with but the control of the construction is now dependent on his own system of securing and stabilising the structure. Although sugar cubes are the product of a manufacturing process, each one is slightly different. The addition of the glue in securing each cube to the next causes additional imperfections once the glue dries, giving each sculpture an individual form.

The organic forms of the sugar cube towers embody Jamison’s interest in the androgynous, his work often blurring the boundaries between gender and sexuality. Like Cragg, his work elicits a response to organic and artificial environments suggesting connections between these opposing worlds. Jamison’s use of the sugar cube immediately recalls Cragg’s dice sculptures where the surface of the structure is covered with countless die, each one glued into place. Jamison replicates this process, but with the sugar cube forming the sculpture and not just the decorative surface.

Recent commissions have seen Jamison develop the sugar cube sculptures into more sturdy architectural forms - for example ‘Sugar Walk’, 2008 (a commission to make an architectural model for a city centre apartment block planned for 2011), and ‘Reichstag Sugar-Cube Dome’ (2009), a solo exhibition at the John Erickson Museum of Art, Berlin, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the world renowned Norman Foster designed dome (Jamison was invited to build a sugar cube version of this state of the art glass and metal edifice).

His latest work ‘Helen’s Tower’ (2009) is a replica of a Scottish Baronial styled tower built in 1850 in Bangor, Northern Ireland. This sculpture alludes to a magical world of fairy tales, fantasy and childhood, other recurring themes which run through Jamison’s practice. The structure of these latest works appears solid and indestructible; they do not hover precariously like the earlier pieces. The attention to detail and the craftsmanship of the roof, turrets and staircase of ‘Helen’s Tower’ is phenomenal, demonstrating the artist’s growing confidence with his materials.

Sanna Moore, August 2009

Artist's biography

Born in Belfast, 1979, Brendan Jamison studied at the University of Ulster where he gained a BA Honours degree in Fine and Applied Arts in 2002 followed by a Master of Fine Art in 2004. Over the past eight years his sculptures have been widely exhibited with shows in Scotland, England, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, America, Canada, New Zealand, India and China. Recent exhibitions include the Harn Museum/John Erickson Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida, USA and The Reichstag, Platz der Republik, Berlin, Germany (2009), and Governor’s House, Prudential Headquarters, Laurence Pountney Hill, London, Queen Street Studios Gallery, Belfast and Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, N. Ireland (2008). He has also been awarded residencies at KHOJ, New Delhi and at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s New York Residency Programme. His work is housed in many private and corporate collections, notably The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the University of Ulster print-making collection, Fitzrovia Group Belfast, Cyrill Sweett London, Himmat New Delhi, John Erickson Museum of Art in Florida, California State University and AVS Sweden. Jamison lives in Bangor, County Down, and is represented by The Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. 

About Sanna Moore

Sanna Moore is Exhibitions Curator at Towner (Eastbourne), a new visual arts centre designed by Rick Mather Architects opening in April 2009.

From 2001 - 2007 she was Curator & Gallery Administrator at the University of Hertfordshire Galleries, which comprises of two spaces - the Art & Design Gallery (Hatfield) and the Margaret Harvey Gallery (St Albans).

Moore has completed a BA (Hons) in History of Art and Film Studies at Middlesex University and a MA in Gallery Studies from the University of Essex. Between 1997 - 2001 she worked in a number of London galleries, including South London Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Whitechapel Art Gallery- where she started as a volunteer and graduated to paid work. She also worked for a short time in commercial galleries but was never serious about a career in the commercial art world.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.