i first came across the work of montreal artist gregory c. brunet over instagram. as it turns out, greg is a mutual friend of sarah osborne (who i did the delicatessen pop-up with). i immediately fell in love with greg’s work and knew i had to find the time to meet him while i was in town. while greg initially set out to make movies, he ended up liking painting, drawing and printmaking much more. his work takes inspiration from 1980s/90s video games and cartoons including popular icons like bart simpson and nintendo, which he animates and deconstructs through abstract shapes and dulled neon colors. greg is especially inspired by the idea of having multiple windows open on a computer at once: through his process, he cuts out pieces and uses the computer to draw new forms, then assembles them into paintings that act like sculpture. in a way, he’s making work that is both 2-d and 3-d so it really plays with the eye. his work reminds me of frank stella’s, yet it feels more virtual reality centric. some of the forms he uses are not representational and are totally unrecognizable, allowing viewers to see his work differently through their own experiences. greg says he’d still like to make music videos one day. it would be really neat to see him create both the installations/sets for a music video as well as animate the video himself.
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
gregory c. brunet: i grew up in the montréal area, which is where i still live and work. my first experience with art came from my mother who was a painter. i drew and played all the time with paint when i was little and i also kinda destroyed some of my moms work when i tried to play with them. then in elementary school i wanted to become a cartoonist and make nice sci-fi comics, but never did. eventually i started college in communication/film study and i was really into making movies. but movies were too complicated to make and would involve way too many people. so i went to university where i did a ba in visual and media arts. at first i was going there to explore and make video arts, but for some reason i ended up doing more painting and silkscreening. at that time i was in a band and it was really convenient to print stuff like posters, t-shirts, record covers and stuff like that. after my ba i wasn't sure if my work was really interesting or worth it, so i just worked hard in the studio for a couple years trying to figure what i wanted to do and say, and now here i am.
cultureisland: tell us more about your paintings.
gregory c. brunet: my technique is based on software like adobe illustrator and paint, where you can cut, copy and paste. the hand becomes the machine and the mind blends with the canvas. as a result, the mixing of altered referents creates complex visual combinations where bearings and avenues meet and blur to create new interpretations and understandings. i try to keep a tradition linked to painting, that's why i use mainly oil. i like to have a discourse on the aesthetics of cheesy mass communication. for example, when bart simpson's face is reduced to it's simplest form, it consists of a lineless shape filled with color and texture.
cultureisland: what is your process for making your work?
gregory c. brunet: i usually start from a doodle on paper and then i start building something around that. sometime i trace the doodles in illustrator and then use a cnc to make a shaped canvas. it's really intuitive and it depends on the project i'm working on. i recently bought an airbrush so it will obviously change the way i work in some form. i also paint on canvas and on wood, it's really a question of what i have on hand. because i work with oil paint i'm usually working on a lot of different paintings at the same time.
cultureisland: what kind of subject matter do you focus on?
gregory c. brunet: i'm part of the generation "y", the one that grew up with h the simpsons, nintendo and the beginning of the internet. this time period is particularly interesting to me, since it was the first where the youth grew up with a profusion of screens and digital images. our current era is still feeling this legacy: ninja turtles, saturated color, 8-bit video games, windows 95 screen savers and wolfenstein 3d are now icons of a certain time, just like mythology belongs to the ancient time. i'm also interested in the loss of language with regard to the technologies by which we are surrounded.
cultureisland: how do you name your works?
gregory c. brunet: my works are usually named after songs or an episode of the simpsons. sometimes i just hear a phrase in a song and i feel like it's a good fit for what i'm doing. right now i'm working on a show called beach party, bbq everyday, the title comes from a little passage on a song on dr. dre's 2001 album. and the beach party part was just something i think was a good fit. i think he could have said something like that.
cultureisland: what inspires you to create your work? where do you find inspiration?
gregory c. brunet: i think there's a certain form of nostalgia in my work. like when i was kid everything was better even if it's not true. i'm really not sure what inspires me in fact. i guess the beach inspires me a lot, probably because i live in the snow up north.
cultureisland: how has your work evolved overtime?
gregory c. brunet: when i started university i was always drawing stuff but didn't really know where i was going with that. it was mainly drawings of strange characters with magical animals. i was building a weird kind of mythology. with the time i started to remove the lines and the figures were slowly disappearing and everything started to be more flat, more abstract, more graphic. at that time i was working with acrylics paint and the medium wasn't right for what i wanted to do. so i started to work with oil, destroying the characters and making them more abstract. there's still shape that suggests the human figure or shapes like the mouth of a ninja turtle even though it's not really out there. i know it's there but the viewer might not see it. then last year i started to make shaped canvases and paintings almost like sculpture, so now i'm becoming more interested in space and how it interacts with the viewer.
cultureisland: who are some of your favorite artists?
gregory c. brunet: right now i'm really into the work of elizabeth murray and math bass. i also like geometric abstract hard-edge artists like guido molinari and ellsworth kelly.
cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?
gregory c. brunet: i always listen to the same records over and over again, but i discovered a band called nap eyes from halifax, canada and i'm pretty much only listening to that right now. also i enjoy the new ep from solids, a band from montreal, it's really good.
cultureisland: have you watched anything inspiring lately?
gregory c. brunet: i kind of feel ashamed because i'm watching the 100 on netflix. i'm really not sure if i like the show or not but i'm totally addicted. it's really not inspiring that's for sure! haha!
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to eat, shop, drink coffee in your neighborhood?
gregory c. brunet: i kinda live and work in a rough neighborhood but there is a really good ban-mi place not too far i don't remember what it's called. also there's a coffee shop called atomic cafe that make really good coffee. when i'm working at the studio i stop there almost every day. it's a really cool and relax spot and the staff is really nice. there is not really anything to buy around my studio, it's mostly pawn shops and vape shops. there's like 10 vape shops it's crazy!