Galerie Ron Mandos is proud to present two exhibitions with an overlapping Brazilian theme. For his solo exhibition I Am New Here, Sebastiaan Bremer presents various new works: a large diptych, a series of black and white portraits and a selection of works inspired by Brazil and its recent history. The group exhibition, Já estava assim quando eu cheguei, curated by Frederik Schampers and co-curated by Sebastiaan Bremer, includes a selection of established and promising new artists from Brazil.


I Am New Here

The Brazilian works by Sebastiaan Bremer, included in Já Estava Assim Quando Eu Cheguei were started when he found old slides in his father-in-law’s office. They showed the Seven Falls of Guaíra, or Sete Quedas – a submerged waterfall, which was replaced by the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The only color of the slides which remained was orange, all the other layers of color of the slide emulsion having been erased by time, not unlike the waterfalls. The contradictions inherent in the dam project mirror the development of civilization, in Bremer’s view; in harnessing energy to provide for themselves and their industries, human beings take away the very nurturing qualities this earth has to offer.  Thus, per Bremer, the solutions of today can become the problems of tomorrow. In his work based on these images, the artist brings the falls back to life with small marks of paint and ink, and reverses history.

Another body of work is inspired by art from the seventeenth century. Bremer started making character studies rendered by hand with ink and paint, working from  portraits by Rembrandt and his peers. He admires these works primarily for the panoply of facial expressions Rembrandt captured so brilliantly and for his ability to illustrate honestly. With  a subtle sense of humor, Rembrandt accurately depicts the wear and tear that human existence takes on a person’s face, regardless of their gender, age, or social standing. The portraits function as studies for Bremer’s large diptych This Was Always, where he continues an ongoing project of multi-paneled works depicting our times, seen through the lens of the past. 

Drawing dot by dot by hand as a shaft of light would on photographic emulsion, Bremer gets closer to the subject, bypassing the marks of the original paintings and drawings. “With this method of working, I discovered  the essence of each person who posed for the pictures back then,” says Bremer. “Seeing people in these portraits come alive by my hand releases the bonds of time and relieves the pain of being stuck in this moment, while connecting to the events of the past. In hindsight, we sometimes interpret historical events assuming people then knew what the outcome would be — while of course they did not.  The characters in the work are all hoping for a good outcome, in the confusion of the present.” In Bremer’s view, the artwork from the 16th and 17th century is an appropriate source to use to depict our current time, considering what we are finally waking up to in societies the world over—that our present global conditions are a result of what the white marauders from Europe did to humanity and the earth. Tragically, those centuries in which slavery and conquest dominated the globe, are known in the Netherlands as the Golden Age

All these works were completed during 2020 in New York City, where the realities of the lockdown and the social upheaval forced everyone to look within. As is often observed, the past is very much alive in the present. . 

In This Was Always we see people stuck in their moment while we watch from the outside, where a wide range of possibilities and hope are very much alive. The rays of light are breaking through the clouds, and the clouds of confusion are falling away, even though in the world of the painting, the eyes of most, but not all, are closed and turned away from this hopeful vision.  Rendering their faces up close, mark by mark. Bremer offers the onlooker a bit of freedom—the chance to jump out of the present, perhaps not to the future but into the past.  


ABOUT Sebastiaan Bremer

Sebastiaan Bremer’s artistic career spans across disciplines and media, but he has become particularly renowned for his ability to transform pre-existing images into ornate, dreamlike tableaux through a careful process of enlargement and intricate hand painting that results in completely unique works.

The use of found imagery as a basis to explore ideas about time and memory has long been central to Bremer’s practice, and in the late 1990s he began experimenting with drawing directly onto the surface of photographs. Initially working with snapshots of family members or familiar places, Bremer developed his signature technique of printing the pictures in an enlarged format—well beyond conventional dimensions—and then altering and embellishing the underlying scene with delicate patterns of dots and strokes using India ink and photographic dye, or applying splashes of paint.

Over the past decades, Bremer has used this approach to create a progression of distinct bodies of work, expanding the scope of his source materials from purely personal moments to an array of images that have captured his imagination or held significance in his life. These range from adaptations of Rembrandt etchings to Brassaï’s photographs of Picasso’s studio and Bill Brandt’s series of close-up images of his famous subjects’ eyes, as well as the vintage lithographic flower prints used in Bremer’s Bloemen series.

Whether starting from the work of an iconic artist or revisiting his own family albums, as in his series Veronica, 2018, silver gelatin prints he produced from long forgotten negatives of candid shots his father took of his mother in her mid thirties, Bremer’s choice of visual documents is rooted in his biography. Hints of his native Holland permeate his work, from his appreciation of the way light falls across a room reminiscent of a Vermeer interior to the exquisitely painted addition of a pointillist feather or flowers to a contemporary photograph that transports the viewer to the world of Dutch Old Master paintings. In engaging with images of others, he is constantly investigating his own memories and thoughts, weaving a dialogue between the underlying photograph and the marks he uses to transform but never completely obscure it, thus creating a physical representation of the confluence of our inner and outer lives.

Sebastiaan Bremer studied at the Vrije Academie, The Hague and Skowhegan School of Art and Sculpture, Maine. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been the subject of three major catalogs: Monkey Brain (2003), Avila (2006), and To Joy (2015), and has been exhibited in such venues as the Tate Gallery, London; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; The Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; and the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut. Bremer’s work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.