Deborah Brown (b.1927)
White Brush Stroke, 1962
Deborah Brown is an internationally renowned sculptor and painter from Northern Ireland. She was born in Belfast in 1927 but at a young age moved to Cushendun in the Glens of Antrim, where she, like a number of artists in this exhibition, formed a lifelong connection with the land.
As a child she received her first lessons from the famous landscape painter James Humbert Craig, who lived nearby. When the family moved back to Belfast, Brown continued her training with the artist Sydney Smith who gave her private lessons.
In 1946 she enrolled briefly in Belfast College of Art to study landscape but decided instead to move to Dublin to train in painting at the National College of Art and Design. She spent some time afterwards in Paris, where she was influenced by modern abstract art. In 1951 she had her first solo exhibition in Belfast with the support of CEMA, the forerunner of the Arts Council. She continued to exhibit her art in the UK and Ireland, while at the same time working in her father's business to support herself. In the 1960s she began experimenting with fibre-glass as a medium, which at the time was completely pioneering. By the 1980s she had moved away from abstract work and her painting and sculpture became increasingly figurative. She was a member of the Women's International Art Club and a member of the Free Painters and Sculptors in London.
In 1982, the Arts Council held a significant retrospective exhibition of her work in the Ulster Museum in Belfast and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin. Brown's work is included in major collections but perhaps her best-known work can be seen on the streets of Belfast, a life-sized bronze sculpture of six sheep and a shepherd called Sheep on the Road. It was made by Brown in 1991 on the commission of the Arts Council Northern Ireland but was purchased by the Laganside Corporation and moved to the entrance of Belfast's Waterfront Hall in 1999.
Since early childhood, Brown has had a love of animals and frequently uses them as the subject of her work. This piece, held in a private collection, is one from Brown's series of brush stroke paintings which she created with a single brushstroke of white paint on an unprimed canvas. Recalling this period of expressive work, the artist noted that the brush marks represented nothing but marks, there was no reference to symbol, object, legend or narrative'.