Optically spellbinding, Brent Wadden’s Alignment (13), 2013, is a monumental example of the artist’s unique fusion of painting and weaving. Using a back-strap loom, the artist blends acrylic yarns and hand-spun wools, creating individual weavings that are then stitched together and mounted onto large-scale raw canvas. Merging bold geometric patterns with traditional craftsmanship, Wadden’s Alignment works straddle the boundaries between fine art, folk art and contemporary design. The formal structure of Wadden’s grid-like tessellations is subtly broken and ruptured by the natural flaws arising from his painstaking handicraft. As the canvas is stretched, the composition begins to take shape, warping and distorting as the patterns shift and realign. This effect is enhanced by Wadden’s use of black and white, creating a minefield of positive and negative space that oscillates before the viewer. Combining overtones of Modernist abstraction with a revival of indigenous craft, Wadden presents a startling reconceptualization of painting for the contemporary age.
Raised in Glace Bay, Canada, Wadden graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2003, and has been based in Berlin since 2005. Growing up in a small community on the island of Cape Breton, Wadden is part of a group of young artists who have reacted against the fast pace and instant gratification of contemporary society, turning instead towards age-old traditions of craftsmanship. ‘Looking back on when I was living in Nova Scotia, I don’t think I was so aware of its isolation from the rest of the world, because at that point I’d never experience influential things like art or music first-hand… It was only since I left that I could see certain elements of the Maritimes that don’t exist anywhere else, such as the domination of craft as the prominent art form’ (B. Wadden, quoted in ‘Brent Wadden talks to Lisa Wilson’, in Dapper Dan Magazine, Issue 6, October 2012). Wadden also cites the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary Folk Art Found Me as instrumental in his fascination with outsider art practices; speaking of the artists featured, he claims ‘I totally admire the purity of the objects they make and their ability to utilize whatever materials are at hand’ (B. Wadden, quoted in ‘Brent Wadden talks to Lisa Wilson’, in Dapper Dan Magazine, Issue 6, October 2012). In this vein, Wadden himself creates his weavings using a variety of natural and synthetic materials, often salvaged from old projects or sourced from thrift shops, eBay, craigslist and family members. In this regard, his works thread together social and artistic histories, creating rich tapestries whose stories are embedded in their wavering surface patterns.