Artists have traditionally transformed humble materials into works of great beauty and meaning. This alchemical process of converting dross into something significant is at the heart of David Brophy’s practice. In his work for the Hatched National Graduate Art Exhibition at PICA earlier this year, a blue tarpaulin with ‘Presence’ cut precisely from the plastic was magically transmuted into a wave crashing onto a distant shore. He explains: “I utilise household items in an attempt to describe the phenomenology of surfing. The resultant artworks transcend the intrinsic history of these appropriated objects. Through process-based practice, the everyday is transformed to portray the sublime.”
The sublime in this case is that dual emotional response of fear and attraction, induced by the immensity of nature. Like all art of significance, it’s difficult to detail precisely why this canopy of blue incised plastic with the word ‘Presence’, projected in light through it evokes so many memories and sparks so many synaptic linkages, but it does.
Like the Arte Povera artists of the 1970s in Italy, Brophy’s seductive play with materials opens up possibilities of interpretation and reflection. Found objects bring their own history, and it is the slow reveal of that layered story in the expanded context of the artist’s narrative that gives his work such resonance and power. Although the catalyst, these objects are transformed through a variety of processes that incorporate “… a diverse range of media and conceptual approaches to making, including sculpture, installation, painting, drawing and digital media”.
The transformation is conceptual, initiated through meditation rather than the manipulation of objects and material. His aim is to capture the sense of the profound in the momentary, which is achieved through the process of bringing his mind to rest so he can pare back his actions until they are the minimal intervention required to initiate an act of conversion and reimagining for the viewer. With a background in viticulture and environmental science, it’s not surprising Brophy displays an understanding of physical, biological and information sciences. Beginning with found objects and materials, or his direct experience of the natural environment, the final simplicity and elegance of his work is the result of a long journey of distillation, reduction and refinement.
It was a process initiated by his time as an installation assistant at PICA, the Fremantle Arts Centre and Venn Galleries. Collaborating with other artists and curators and seeing how they worked with space to create new ways of interpreting artworks was the trigger to explore how his own creative practice might embrace the presentation of his sculptural work in a gallery environment.
Now completing his Bachelors degree at Curtin University, Brophy has an exhibition in Bali in October, work in the group exhibition New Blood Rising at Elements Gallery in November, a collaborative video performance with Elise Rietze planned for the end of the year, and a forthcoming residency at PICA.