Sebastiaan Bremer always starts from an exploration of his own personal relationship with his family both immediate and extended. Often the photographs he enlarges and draws over have been taken from family archives or have a link either to his native Holland or his wife's native Brazil. He then meticulously paints a veil of intricate acrylic dots directly onto the photographic surfaces. This added layer either undulates with the contours of the original image or becomes elaborately ornamental or psychedelic, turning the whole image into a dream like abstraction.
Sebastiaan Bremer's recent works have erred towards an exploration of the romantic spirit, a narrative from art history that he sees himself part of. Bremer's newest series of emotive photographic portraits, have further embraced this exploration, and even use Goethe's political allegory, Egmont (1788) as a source text, in particular the famous quote "heavenly Joy / deadly sorrow", often referred to by European intellectuals as a characteristic of a Romantic Soul.
Egmont Re-visited is a combination of works that all take their cue from a series of portraits taken of Bremer's father, Theo, aged 14. The images were originally taken in the 1940's and came about when Theo's inspirational school teacher decided to write a book on the The Art of Declamation*. A photographer was commissioned to take portraits to illustrate the book and pupils at the school including Theo were the subjects. The boys were asked to make facial expressions, working through the spectrum of human emotion from joy to sorrow. Bremer heightens the impact of these images by counterpointing the black glossy photo-emulsion with the clogged braille like surface of the painted areas, extending the emotional range contained within the normal confines of a photograph. He stretches the grimaces, the smiles, the grins and wistful gazes and in doing this alludes to something meta-physical, an unseen transcendent dimension.
Alongside his works of his father are portraits taken by Bremer of his son, Tobias and daughter, Sophie and two self-portraits. In each piece the subject directly mimics expressions of those in the earlier photographs of Theo. As son, father and artist, Bremer's self-portraits provide a hinge for the exhibition. An empathetically introspective form of self-consciousness, they show the artist as an intense presence. Ultimately the finished works are haunting, evoking a hallucinogenic dreamlike quality, but they also have a very lyrical approach to thinking about time's passing. The viewer is led to compare the faces in the portraits which capture both the physical attributes through likeness and gesture that are passed through generations, as well as hinting at an unconscious spiritual connection that binds his family together.
Sebastiaan Bremer lives and works in New York. He studied at the Vrije Academie, The Hague, and Skowhegan School of Art and Sculpture, Maine. He has published two major catalogues: Monkey Brain (2003), and Avila (2006). His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, LACMA, Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
*Voordrachtskunst-Theorie en Praktijk, published by LCG malmberg 's-Hertogenbosch in 1951