Images source: Trevor Brown's official website
Trevor Brown, if this name doesn’t tell you something right away, however, if you're tied to Japanese culture - or rather say Tokyoite culture - for some time, you've probably seen his well-rounded juvenile style somewhere... Since the Tokyo-based English illustrator is neither more nor less than the illustrator of the cover of the sulfur novel Snakes and earrings (2003) by Hitomi Kanehara. So what makes this "gaijin" (1) artist so especially noteworthy in the Tokyoite landscape at the point of chaining number of books in his own name, being sought by galleries around the world, magazines fan of underground art, and many music artists whose he produced cd covers (Venetian Snares, Whitehouse)?
As the fetishist illustrator Trevor Brown is dealing with the new success of his own Alice’s vision (Editions Treville, 2010), we thought it was the occasion to review shortly why Trevor Brown is an ideal figure for a modern art in Japan, combining neo-pop culture and ero-guro, kawaii (cute) and Kowai (scary).
If Trevor Brown follows a classic route - attending an art school, design studios, working in the advertising... - he calls it himself a very boring route. In a post-punk industrial England, where we could still afford to say and do anything, it is in 1985 that Trevor Brown releases his taste for the visually and politically incorrect, in booklets under such provocative titles as “graphic autopsy” or “abused images”, distributed on the sly in underground music circles. But England – as soon everywhere in the Old Europe, where it would become impossible to have the slightest thought of politically incorrect or having a taste for provocation - was being increasingly castrating and started censoring artists, Trevor Brown fled to Tokyo in 1993, with her companion, the teddy bear artist Izumi Konomi (Hippie Coco).
Trevor Brown could be by his style brought in the same type of art with the American painter Mark Ryden. Indeed, his well-rounded juvenile characters wear the mask of innocence, they merrily play with cuddly toys or unappealing insects on washed colors and pastels background, death and religion are desecrated... However, his artwork is nothing like Mark Ryden’s. Because if Mark Ryden is a post-surrealist artist - and yet politically very acceptable - Trevor Brown’s work gets its interests in something pretty post-humanistic (future man and machine connections, and the mutations emerged from these new connections). Through illustrations combining childhood, SM, gothic, erotic and grotesque, violence, Trevor Brown likes to throw us in the face pictures at in the meantime very cute and highly provocative, even outrageous.
In fact, Trevor Brown's art is not for everyone! If the painter somewhat chastened himself with his latest opus, Alice, he nevertheless stopped shaking the jar of Japanese mental illnesses - but also mental insanities of any hyper-capitalistic society, we mustn’t forget that United-States have their share of deviant deceases - children becoming objects, SM gleefully rubbing death, innocent dolls revealing themselves with a perverse nature ready to fulfill their masters’ pleasures, all of this against a cyber punk canvas - would it be surprising when Tokyo is the scene of the cyber punk literature Bible, Neuromancer (William Gibson, 1984)? And if we find in Trevor Brown’s art a taste for any kind of medical scenes, it is not surprising when you know that he has a longtime friendship with the pioneer of so-called "medical art", the French novelist, photographer, illustrator and filmmaker, Romain Slocombe.
Yes, Trevor Brown is a sick mind creator! Explore his work and you’ll surely see the most unpleasant facets of what human nature can bring. Yes, you will surely cute dolls in bondage sceneries, teenagers looking puppets playing innocently with sex toys, young mutilated girls, bruises, scars… A massive brain attack of perversion, fetish, organic-bloody themes that challenge the spectator. But indeed, as Trevor Brown’s artwork is not for everyone, underground art neither. As Tomomi Kazumoto (who admires Trevor Brown) said : “It is sometimes the transgressor nature itself that decides if an artwork is underground or not; it is even by the transgressor nature that positions can be decided; radical allows anyone to easily know if a world repels him/her or not.”
But instead of thinking Trevor Brown is the sick maniac, think over what his work says about the dark side of human nature (and this, in any era of the mankind’s evolution) and the evolution of a too modern society losing its way. In the other hand, realize how Japan with its strict code of behavior, its well controlled society, is actually a land where you can still be politically incorrect, when our western societies are in reality damaging and slavering us with their attempt of stranding morality. More than a simply deviant art, Trevor Brown’s work is a field where we can think over our modern world and where it is heading to.
Author: Valerie Fujita
Author: Valerie Fujita
(1) gaijin: in reality gaikokujin, "someone from an outside country", reduced to "someone from outside"