Keiran Brennan Hinton: A Break in the Clouds

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Charles Moffett, NYC // September 08, 2023 – October 21, 2023

Charles Moffett is pleased to present A Break in the Clouds, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Canadian artist Keiran Brennan Hinton. The exhibition marks the painter’s second solo show with the gallery, and his first since officially joining the program in spring 2022. Gathering together a dozen new oil paintings, the show caps a momentous year for Brennan Hinton, which has included his participation in the Beecher Residency in Litchfield, Connecticut, and the gallery’s celebrated presentation of his work at the Felix Art Fair in Los Angeles, CA.

Living and working between the city of Toronto and the rural community of Elgin, Ontario, Brennan Hinton’s practice focuses on formal painting processes, the sustained act of observation, reflections of domestic intimacy, and the plein-air discipline, drawing inspiration from painters as wide-ranging as Pierre Bonnard, Robert Campin, Ann Craven, Lois Dodd, Edward Hopper, and David Hockney, to name but a few. He follows an instinctual approach to choosing a painting’s subject matter. Seeing beauty in the mundane, he responds intuitively to the environments that surround him and always travels with canvases, paints, and brushes in tow. For Brennan Hinton, beauty is not to be dismissed as superfluous, but rather integral to the act of observation.

The artist’s practice is one of testifying. Nothing is uncovered that has not always been present, but the paintings are a testament to and reward for the physical sensation of the eyes’ discernment of colors, light, shadows, patterns, objects in stillness and in movement. The reward lies not in the detection of something hidden nor in the discovery of an imagined meaning, but in the profound experience of looking at life as it is – the active engagement in the slow process of perception, the existence within a space from a position of curiosity and wonder rather than assumption.

Across both his plein-air paintings and his domestic interior scenes, Brennan Hinton probes the longstanding traditions of landscape and still life painting. Rather than freezing a scene in a singular moment from a singular perspective, his paintings are an expansion of time passing, a reflection of memory as a sensory experience not an exact reproduction. For the artist’s intimately-scaled compositions – such as the moon-lit Haliburton lake nocturnes and the happenings of a Toronto park on the green cusp of spring – he paints them over a short span of hours, translating his immediate, visceral impressions directly onto the canvas. For larger compositions, such as those capturing the same park amidst a rain storm or the verdant, sun-soaked summer forest surrounding the Elgin schoolhouse, Brennan Hinton creates them over a series of days, fusing an environment in a variety of weather conditions and daylight levels into a singular frame. Recently, the artist has expanded this practice even further to include large scale panoramas, embodied in the three diptychs installed together in the back gallery, that give equal attention to the background and foreground in a rejection of traditional single point perspective. By moving the canvas and his body throughout a space while painting it, he unifies multiple perspectives into a painting, opening up the represented space and allowing more room for a viewer’s eye to wander and roam.

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Unusual for an artist working in oils, Brennan Hinton paints wet-on-wet, rather than allowing each layer to dry, so that he can move quickly and capture the essence of the light and color as he sees it. Working in a process he has evolved over 15 years, he leans into the luminous quality of direct painting with a limited palette, which allows him to nimbly record the world as it moves around him. In a new development to his distinctive approach, in some paintings, the artist has begun to use the light and shadows that fall naturally onto the canvas itself to guide his brushstrokes – a technique most remarkably rendered in the painting Midsummer Forest, a potent expression of the intense sensation of standing alone in a light-filled forest.

Throughout all the paintings, Brennan Hinton’s subject matter vulnerably lies in the small moments that comprise his daily life – an infinite source material that never fails to invigorate. Though people are rarely present, the scattered evidence of their existence (a forgotten sock, an Adirondack chair perched at the lake’s shore, a light-filled window in the distance, a steaming cup of coffee) imbue the paintings with life, hinting at a human presence just beyond the canvas’s edge. With his focus trained on the simple, in-between objects and places that fill a day, a year, a life – and through his exceptional command of his material, the honesty of his gaze, and his ability to capture not just what is seen but how it feels to see it – Brennan Hinton not only makes his world glow, but generously show us how to do the same.

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