Richard Brown‘s Picture Window is replete with vessels, both literally and metaphorically—to the point where one might question the difference between these two distinctions. His paintings embody the contradiction of simultaneously referring to something and being what is referred to.
With their numerous obfuscations and framing devices, these images engage what Brown describes as “simultaneous gateways and barriers to knowing through seeing.” They bring to mind the predicament of being a person and the nexus of joys, terrors, and confusions imbedded in the ability to both see and be seen.
 Richard Brown’s artist statement for Picture Window
An image is a paradox of depth that sits between the physical flatness of a surface and the imaginary expanses of the mind. It is both an invitation and a rejection. More specifically, a silhouette is a revelation through concealment. Though it obliterates the details of overlapping appendages and protrusions like the jagged foliage of a dandelion, a silhouette measures the volume of an object in our field of view.
One of the only Phoenician letters to arrive uninterrupted in our contemporary alphabet is ‘O’. It is the distant relative of the Phoenician letter Ayin which is an empty circle. This letter comes from a hieroglyphic symbol for an eye. It is an ancient marker of the continuity between writing and image making—two modes of expression/communication which are constantly pitted against one another. The silhouette is a reminder of the exchange between them. Like a letter, the silhouette sits on a surface like a piece of cut paper. It is a surface that alludes to depth.
The Ayin, a circle, is a primary illusion of depth. It draws one’s focus into a space like a picture frame or a rose window. It is an expression of the ways that that knowledge is often created by abstraction. To expand knowledge is to impose limits the same way a picture is created by a frame. To know a thing is to know what it is not.
Simone Weil writes that “the essence of created things is to be intermediaries” and the limits of an image are a marker of the ways limitation makes connection possible. Without skin we would not be able to touch one another. Without a surface we would not be able to look into an image. Without the separations of consciousness we could not be able to know another.
 Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (London: Routledge, 2001).
Richard Brown holds a BFA Honours from the University of Manitoba School of Art, and an MFA from Hunter College, City University of New York. He is currently the Director of the School of Visual Art at Alberta University of the Arts, and an Associate Professor in the Drawing program.
Richard Brown would like to thank Dianne Bos, Richard Clements, Megan Dyck, Jarvis Hall, Corrie Hamm, Heather Huston, Kent Merriman Jr., Shannon Norberg, Cassandra Paul, Lyndsay Rice, Paul Robert, Harry Vandervlist, Nic Wilson.
And a special thank you to Pamela Norrish and Nate McLeod.