Sebastiaan Bremer is a Dutch artist, born in Amsterdam in 1970, living and working in New York. During his high school years he worked in a comic book store, “dabbling in illustration and comics” (Nathan). When he was 19, Bremer attended the Vrije Academie in The Hague. He has expressed being specifically influenced by Dutch painters including Melle, Albert Eckhout and Frans Post. Little personal history on Bremer is available online, which is intriguing and elusive when most of his work utilized either personal family photographs, or at the minimum he has “a strong connection to what is captured in the photograph―it takes too long and too much energy not to be completely smitten and engaged with the subject matter” (Dentz).
When beginning a new piece, Bremer begins with a photograph. Sometimes the images are snapshots from his childhood, sometimes they are academic glass slides of a specific place, some are found photographs of a mysterious family on vacation, and some photographs are simply exposed, black photographic paper. Once the image is decided upon, it is enlarged to the desired size and, typically, printed as a chromogenic print. Sizes range from seven feet, to nine inches, to two inches. It is at this stage that Bremer then applies, with various inks and dyes, hundreds to thousands of dots throughout the piece. These dots begin to transform into webs of information- they may sit on the surface of the image, or they may begin to interact with the subject matter within each photograph.
When Emily Nathan, in an interview for ARTslant, asked about the decorative nature of his work, Bremer responded,
“I think “decoration” is a word that sometimes gets misused, as it accrues the connotation of being shallow and superficial, which I think sells it short. I think there is a lot to see in the “decorative,” in wallpaper, clouds or the swirling patterns of marble. Losing yourself in the “surface” allows the mind to travel, and sometimes I use that in my work as well. I draw on my pictures so you can see them through my eyes.”
He went on to describe the markings of his work as meditative, recording his time spent with each piece, a record and map of his thoughts within a visual language. In several interviews, Bremer referred to the photograph as having a “talismanic” and mysterious power. “I don’t think anyone would argue that there is anything objective or documentary about a photograph anymore, if there ever really was. That said, when we see a photograph, it somehow convinces and seduces us to feel that it does indeed have the potential to express Truth” (Nathan).
Whatever that potential for Truth alludes to, it is at the very least indicative of the passage of time. While photographs, or even the representation of a photograph communicates a specific instance, the labor-intensive methods Bremer employs over each piece to alter, record, and imbue the imagery with new associations thus alters the representation of time.
“By drawing on the photographic image I change everything and add the real component of time. My associations, ideas, and changes of direction―it all finds its way to the picture. If I have more than one photographic image I want to include, I might end up layering them on top of each other, which makes things a bit more obscure and harder to read. But at the same time that confusion can be a more realistic record than just a tenth of a second captured in time, as in a “pure” photograph. This is my way to get out of the one-person perspective; it’s almost as if you were listening to different takes on a place or a moment in time” (Dentz).
Interviewer Shoshanna Dentz commented that “It seems… you are talking about the past and the present being fused; not simply coexisting, but actually sharing the same dimensional plane. Your work seems to attempt a “constant present” where everything keeps going and living, nothing slides into the past.” to which Bremer replied “Yeah, that’s nice.”
Sebastiaan Bremer Biography and Links on Artnet
“Sebastiaan Bremer.” Interview by Shoshana Dentz in BOMB, Issue 112 Summer 2010
“The Slant on Sebastiaan Bremer.” Interview by Emily Nathan for ARTslant: New York
“Sebastiaan Bremer.” The Brooklyn Rail
Otis Bolsky Gallery: When It’s a Photograph. Soo Kim, Interim Director of Photography, Otis College of Art and Design.
“Sebastiaan Bremer.” Escape Into Life.
Sebastiaan Bremer for Lindamagazine.nl.