Lex Braes


Exhibition: Archetype-Hidden Memory — Paintings by Lex Braes

CRS: the Center for Remembering and Sharing

Scottish painter Lex Braes starts with a thought and an image, and then reduces that image to a structure of a few lines, maybe five lines or a single endless line, like a Celtic knot. With handmade paint on plaster, linen and here on paper, he mines a motif that he first found in 2009, using organic geometry to discover shapes, creating rhomboids, parallelograms, and abstract forms that suggest and reminisce about ancient memories. Some of Braes’s forms recall the keening, wailing figure of a man on a Greek krater, seen on a trip to Athens. Others are derived from memories of a reclining female figure. These are indelible memories that sometimes become the joined lines that form two shapes, an abstract form, or uplifted arms signaling mourning.

A series of forms on paper, incremental grey lines lean slightly, more ample or less close, to create a rhythm, with one smaller form set slightly apart. Another sheet of paper is loaded with forms, erased by waves of additional colors, and layered paint. While it appears now to be just a warm grey, a solid wall of color, the intimate painting on paper has some extra moisture, with traces of liquid running down the sheet, like cleansing rain that is seen through a dirty window. A third painting on paper, reveals a layered technique where the remaining stroke is a single gesture, an O form.

Poignantly marked with ground earth pigments mixed with polymers on prepared paper, his images are reminders of a fleeting impression as it crosses the painter’s mind. Perhaps that happens once or maybe a hundred times in a day, and probably too many times in an hour. The thoughts are punctuated with a change of material or surface. His reductive paintings are layered and built up surfaces, mixing in the ad hoc elements of rain water, or moldy earth as a new color, connecting to primal and essential nature with constant reconfiguration, to end up with the most fragile simplicity. Strong statements, given in bare minimal colors that remind of earth, first strokes like cave paintings, blue water and sky. Using a language only known to him, yet universal, Braes draws upon the essential wildness of his native Scotland, filled with the ancient civilizing and peaceful grounding of Pictish stones, runic inscriptions and pictograms that channel ancient and universal human emotions.

The painter’s daily movement travels between small oil sketches on paper to rounded sculpted forms, connected to remnants of wood, or paintings on linen. New drawings of graphite marks emerge from beneath layers and layers of an empty space, formed by painting around reserved places on the paper, allowing viewers to peek at an original space of emptiness. Braes captures an essential quality undetected in our daily frenetic lives. He bridges living memory of enduring spirit with a connection from the past.

— Lisa A. Banner