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Material <---> Artist

Solo Exhibition currently showing at: Ashurst LLP, London Fruit and Wool Exchange, Shoreditch, London

​Exhibition overview by Briony Marshall

Ruth Brenner is a Scottish artist working in Newcastle and Surrey. Her tactile work, while being a feast for the eyes, also raises questions about the relationship between the artists and the materials they work with.


The first work you see when you enter the Ashurst reception area is a large block of amber rosin perched on a scaffold at head height. Brenner experiments with this natural material, derived from pine trees, and its viscosity. Rosin and bitumen (another material Brenner likes to use) are examples of amorphous materials that have both solid and fluid properties. Although imperceptible to the human eye, these blocks of seemingly solid material are slowly moving and changing shape in reaction to the forces placed on them by Brenner’s installations.


The magic of these ever-changing installations highlights that all artistic endeavours are a collaboration between the artists and the materials they choose to work with. This close collaborative relationship with materials continues in her ceramic and glass works. She lets go of control of the final outcome, letting chance and the material play an equal part. Applying semi-molten glass to hardwood planks, she seems to have frozen a moment of action as the glass drips down. Raku pots bear traces of fire and smoke and delicate shards of ceramic show traces of nails and wire.


Brenner is currently working towards a practice-led PhD on the corporeal act of making, i.e. the importance of the artist's physical body in the creative process. She is investigating this in the light of theories of phenomenology, which views reality as something that can only be understood in terms of how it is perceived by our consciousness, i.e. all objects and events are mere phenomena of the human brain.


Brenner looks for the beauty in the everyday, the broken, the failed, the ugly, the precarious, the dangerous.  She finds joy in the challenge, the problem solving, the touch, the unexpected, and the physical endeavour. Elemental materials and materials used in industry are polished lovingly, handled preciously, melted and re-melted, burnt and re-burnt, stretched, folded, pierced and their stability tampered with and allowed to crack and break.


Brenner is seduced by the materials and the process, and that excitement is embodied in the work she produces.

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