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Brent Wadden

  • Wool, cotton, acryclic on canvas
  • 2013
  • Dimensions: Not Available
  • 18 York Street, Bremner Tower, Toronto

About the artwork

Upon first glance, this large piece may appear structured and smooth. But look closer and you’ll find a surface full of gnarled textures and morphing tones. Triangular patterns of natural fibres in shades of black, grey, and white interlock across the canvas, giving the work a sense of upward movement. Brent Wadden’s Wool, commissioned for Toronto’s Bremner Tower lobby, reveals its medium in its name. The artist does not intend to fool his viewer but instead invites them to question their notion of traditional “fine art”. Normally defined as painting, drawing, or sculpture, Wadden asks why handmade crafts and textiles cannot be added into the mix.

About the artist

Born in Glace Bay, Brent Wadden developed his practice while studying at Nova Scotia’s College of Art and Design. Upon graduating in 2003, he opened his first solo show at Anna Leonowens Gallery and was enthusiastically received. Since then, Wadden’s works have been exhibited around the world and have been compared to the combined works of Josef and Anni Albers. Wadden’s pieces blur the boundaries between craft and fine art, marrying the hand-made nature of textiles with the geometric abstraction present in Modernist painting. The amount of labour required to produce one of Wadden’s works is staggering and it is a fundamental aspect of his creative process. By hand-weaving natural and synthetic fibres gathered from mostly sustainable and second-hand sources, the artist rejects the impatience and consumerist behaviours of our society. The composition of Wadden’s pieces are heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Op art, which focus on creating contrasting areas of light and dark among hard-edged geometric patterns. Wadden embraces the fact that he is not a formally trained weaver, often incorporating inconsistencies in shape, texture, and tone into his works. The flaws are crucial in making his art more personal and intimate. Although they may look like smooth surfaces from afar, the majority of Wadden’s pieces have not been touched with paint. Texturally, especially when using wool, the surface of the canvas will present a paintbrush-like effect. In more recent years, Wadden has experimented with vivid colours, monochromatic tones, and more rigid patterns.

Fun facts

  • Wadden will switch out the looms that he uses to create his art every year so that he ensures he does not get too comfortable with the process and that his pieces maintain their imperfect qualities.
  • While sustainability is inherently a feature of Wadden's work, the initial reason for which he began sourcing materials second-hand, mostly online through sites like eBay, was that he had moved to Berlin and felt nervous speaking German in local shops.

Engagement questions

  • What do you think the challenges of working with this medium are?
  • How does the medium of Wool change how you perceive the themes of this artwork?