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Uptown Magazine, December 27, 2007

Less is more

Michael Benjamin Brown uses simplicity to explore the idea of home

By Stacey Abramson

Michael Benjamin Brown creates a world of pensive comfort and cultural connection through his latest works at Semai Gallery. His emotional drawings conjure a thoughtful mood in the simplest of fashions.

Walking through the corridor of the gallery, the viewer is book-ended by the two sides of the ocean Brown has seen over the last year - Winnipeg, Man., and London, England. He's lived in both cities and became inspired by commonplace architectural structures.

In Traces, Brown chooses to work in blue ink and paper - two of the most common materials for daydream doodling. His choice of media alludes to a lack of tools and a need for quick drawing surfaces.

The prairie sky has long been inspiration for artists in this region. In the curatorial essay by Aldona Dzieziejko which accompanies Traces, Brown says, "The prairie seems to shrink you down, sandwiched between two massive gods of earth and sky or heaven and hell. It aggravates our sensations of being alone in the universe."

In his drawings, his focus on the sky pushing down on the buildings sitting under it perfectly capture this sentiment.

Historically, children and adults have always 'reached for the sky' from rooftops around the world. Looking up from the top of a building, one loses the sense of being trapped in one's own little world. Brown explores this through his selection of subject matter - rooftops exist everywhere. When looking at his drawings from both London and Winnipeg, it's evident that, without the titles, the cities would be indistinguishable from these vantage points.

Windows, antennae, ladders and architectural detail appear in each work, making them seem both hopeful and lonely. The vastness of the sky takes over most of the pages. Its clean whiteness suggests a silence that speaks of reflection and inspiration, and the buildings give the impression of solitude. Regardless of how they are taken, these lonesome scenes are a fresh contemplation on our surroundings and our homes.

Brown's traces of travel, thought and comfort are approached with a tenderness that lets his concepts and ideas shine through the simplicity.

The Original Article in Uptown Magazine