Ashlynn Browning at V&V
We are thrilled to feature the vibrant, rich and engaging work of Raleigh-based artist, Ashlynn Browning, on view in-store from October 19th through January 31st. Ashlynn earned a BA in Studio Art and English from Meredith College in 2000 and her MFA in painting and printmaking from the University of NC at Greensboro in 2002. Her work has been exhibited in a wide range of museums and galleries including Flanders Gallery (Raleigh, NC), Whitespace (Atlanta, GA), The CUE Art Foundation (New York, NY), and the Weatherspoon Art Museum (Greensboro, NC). Publications that have reviewed her work include New American Paintings, Burnaway, and The Washington Post. Ashlynn has also received grants and fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, United Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, among other prominent arts institutions.
Read Ashlynn's Artist Statement below and continue on to our Q&A where we took a deeper dive into her work, her process and growing up in NC.
My work contains a hybrid of geometric and organic forms created through an intuitive painting process. Balancing opposing forces is an important part of this process. Bold color is set against muted, while pattern and texture play off of smooth color fields. These are variables that I mix and layer in multiple stages until a resonant image is formed. The many layers in each piece speak both to the history of the painting’s creation, as well as to the hidden parts of ourselves that we conceal and reveal in time.
I often reference architectural forms, with nods to bridges, bricks, walls and windows. These take on a more psychological than literal meaning, however. In my work, there is usually the sense of an inner core or soul that is being protected and encased by an outer shell-like structure.
The forms in the paintings all have personalities and implied narratives. Their off-kilter stance and precarious posture are imbued with vulnerability, while the spiky, geometric forms that envelop and bridge them show a hardened strength. In some ways, each is a self-portrait.
Q&A WITH ASHLYNN
How did growing up in North Carolina influence you and your decision to be an artist?
I think I would have been an artist no matter where I grew up, but that being said, living in NC did give me lots of valuable opportunities. I was raised in Charlotte, where I got to visit galleries, craft centers, and The Mint Museum regularly. North Carolina has a long tradition of wonderful artisans and I was exposed to that from an early age. My parents were always extremely supportive of my interests, so wherever we traveled in the state (and elsewhere) we looked at visual art.
How did abstract painting, including geometric and organic forms, become interesting to you, and the focus of your art?
Ever since childhood I knew I wanted to be an artist, but my earliest plans were to be a children’s book illustrator. All the way through high school, my style was quite traditional. That changed in college when I discovered oil painting and the work of Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston, among many others. That’s when I knew I would be an abstract painter, and I never looked back. Over the years, through graduate school and beyond, my mediums have changed from printmaking (etching and monoprints), to drawing, collage, and works on paper, and from using acrylic to finally, a circular journey back to oil paint. My forms have fluctuated as well, going from organic and gestural to more geometric over the years. Gestural mark marking is more of a passionate, emotional release, while creating geometric forms feels more calculated and cerebral. That midpoint is where I’m most comfortable- a style that’s not too tight, not too loose.
What has inspired the collection of works you are showing at Vert & Vogue now?
The body of work you have ranges from 2016 to 2018. The larger pieces came first and they reference bridges and architectural structures. This is not in a literal sense but more of a psychological one. The smaller paintings are the most recent, and they are what I refer to as “stand-ins for figures.” I see those forms as being personified. To me each has a strong sense of self and personality. I think of them as being people really more than abstract forms.
How does this collection connect with your current exhibition at the Durham Arts Council (which we're excited folks can see right up the street from V&V)?
The show that will be up at DAC is a body of work from 2018 called “Revisionist Geometry.” (The small pieces you have are part of this series.) Making this work involved scraping down and reinventing a series of decade old paintings. These older pieces were my earliest attempts at combining geometric forms with painterly process. As I scraped the panels down, the weathered surfaces and individual layers that emerged began to tell the story of their making, serving almost as time capsules of my life. I saw the color choices, brushstrokes and experimental approaches that had captivated me ten years ago. Memories of the experiences that had fueled that work came flooding back, merged now with thoughts of the present. I went back into the paintings to reactivate them and, quite literally, add another layer to the story. Some changed only incrementally and some became completely unrecognizable in the end.
Since receiving your MFA in 2002 from UNC Greensboro, you have chalked up an impressive roster of shows, grants, residencies, reviews and awards. What has been most vital in enabling you to steadily and consistently express your creativity and develop your career?
Time and freedom to work are always the answer to this question. They are crucial, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to carve out both in my life all these years. After grad school, I worked for a decade getting established, exhibiting locally and nationally, attending residencies and such. Just showing up to the studio is the main thing. You show up and you work, even if you only have an hour or two. Some days it feels frustrating and useless, and some days feel glorious. But the consistency of working is what matters. I have two young sons now, so juggling my art with motherhood is an interesting challenge. Surprisingly though, I find myself more driven and more prolific since having children. There’s just no time to mess around in the studio, so some good risks are taken!
What excites you most about your work as an artist now, and the opportunities coming your way?
The work is always what excites me most. I don’t use studies or plans to map out thing beforehand, so each painting is an adventure. The forms and colors evolve with each piece and it feels very satisfying to see that process unfold and see the paintings become themselves. At the end of each painting, I always have the same feeling- “Oh! So that’s who you are!” It never gets old. I work on a series for about two years before it merges into new ideas. So there is no end in sight and all that open possibility is exciting. Getting to show the work and have positive responses to it are the icing on the cake.
Thanks to V&V friend, Teka Selman, founder of Selman Contemporary, for partnering with us to produce this project. View Ashlynn's work on display now-January 31st at V&V, 353 W. Main Street Durham, NC or contact us for additional information at 919-797-2767.