In New Prints, Christopher Le Brun Channels “Serious Matters in a Playful Vein”

Celebrated British artist once humbly explained in an interview (with Clocktower Radio) that he spends his life “covering surfaces and arranging things.” He has even compared his studio practice to sitting at a breakfast table and moving around salt and pepper shakers and packages of cereal. Le Brun’s aptitude for arrangement surfaces in a new series of prints created in collaboration with the London-based art publisher Paragon Press, which has been working with major contemporary artists for almost three decades.
Le Brun, who has been president of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Arts since 2011, values cross-disciplinary artistic exploration and mark-making as a powerful vehicle for individual expression. In his new series, titled “Seria Ludo” (2015), prints reveal abstract patterns made from vertical swathes and scrawls of color and negative space. Red, yellow, blue, and grey ink contrast with the bright white of the paper to highlight energetic, motions on each block’s surface, allowing intricate textures to materialize. While he’s best known as a painter, Le Brun’s strong eye for composition and color come through brilliantly in print form.
In 03 from Seria Ludo (2015), horizontal and vertical lines are set ablaze by bright yellow, while in 02 from Seria Ludo (2015), aggressive, carved lines recede into a blank white space in the center. Red ink contrasts sharply with white and underscores areas where Le Brun didn’t carve quite so deeply. Fine lines that evidence the artist’s hand appear like scribbles and scratches covering the picture plane, save for key moments where no ink touches the paper. As with Le Brun’s abstract paintings, there is a keen sense of structure at play here, a balance between exuberant chaos and measured order. Given the title of the series, a latin phrase that translates as “serious matters in a playful vein,” this effect is clearly just what the artist had in mind.
Le Brun regards the activity of printmaking as he does painting, calling it “deeply romantic, full of idealism and risk and emotion.” To see his ink marks on paper is to trace the layers of his artistic practice—a passionate pursuit of individual expression.
—Anna Furman