Clare Brown says she might be the first artist ever to coordinate specific color hues into all of her paintings. It's a bold claim, but the Topanga transplant knows a thing or two about color. As a 10-year-old growing up in the late '60s, Brown spent her days immersed in giant plastic colored eggs. The zany cocoons of color were the invention of color theorist and healer Theo Gimbel, who worked with Brown's mother, who was blind, in his Gloucestershire, England laboratory. “They were massive — say about 10 feet by 10 feet,” recalls Brown. “You walked into it and sat down on the seat and it was like, boom! Yellow. You couldn't see anything else but yellow. I'd stay in there for ages.”
“My mother's blindness really influenced me in the sense of, she made me see more, in a way,” Brown says, before admitting how odd it must sound.
“She made me look more because she couldn't. She would talk about what she saw in her mind's eye or felt, colors or just, you know, she would walk into a building and would feel if it was an austere, cold sort of atmosphere. People wouldn't necessarily sort of sense that. But you know, I walk into buildings now and I have that exact — I sort of gauge how the building feels.”
After losing her mother, boyfriend and best friend all in the same year around two decades ago, Brown left Europe and headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a production designer, which is how she still pays her bills in between taking on art commissions like private murals. (One of her murals, which took her three and a half years to complete, can be found inside the Beverly Hills home The Witch's House, as it's famously nicknamed for its fairy-tale-like appearance.)
In a twist of fate fit for a Hollywood biopic, Brown financed her move to Los Angeles with the sale of three paintings to Pink Floyd, a band she'd never met, but who'd insisted on hanging her art in their London recording studio. These days, Hollywood is approaching her, rather than the other way around: she says there's interest in optioning a film script about her mother — the blind poet who dabbled in psychotherapy and metaphysics.
But Brown's biggest break yet is her first solo show, opening this weekend at The 1909, a sprawling multi-level venue in Topanga Canyon. Titled “Evoke,” the show features a series of mixed-media paintings that combine photographs and digital manipulation with acrylic painting. “Each piece is specifically [about] the colors,” says Brown. “I don't go outside that [color] scale, and I'm all about what that color is meaning and the story behind it.”
Brown says her paintings are about the value of life and figuring out what's really important. “My mother would always remind me, if we were 25 miles closer to the sun, nothing would exist. It's a miraculous thing we're all here after all.”
The opening reception for “Evoke” is Sat. Jan. 19, from 6:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. at the 1909, 1909 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290; 310-455-1115, clareink.com