Strange Loop is a fitting title for a mini-survey of work by Mary-Louise Browne. A strange loop
is a phenomenon in which movement in a system always arrives back to where it started.
With Browne’s practice, the beginning and end is always language and the way words give form
to our perception of what we see. Using text in lieu of imagery, she speaks to the visual while
refusing the prevalence of images and their authority over the imagination.
A leading practitioner of text-based conceptual minimalism, Browne is also a lover of objects and
what she calls “the thinginess of things”. She has employed a wide range of media to achieve her
Cerebral at first glance, her work is infused with warmth, dry wit and tactility. Works, whether in
leather, stone or satin call to be touched. There’s often a playful exchange between media and
meaning - Pale Skin, part of a large series of leather works speaking to the body, is painted on
fine flesh hued leather. The exhibition includes some of these works.
A delight in the clash between fine art and commercial art is frequently present – neons send
strange messages advertising nothing. Similar plays are seen in her newest neon, Grand. Here
medium, scale and reading tease conventional expectations and reference the word’s
widespread ironic use in the Irish vernacular where any sense of magnificence is downplayed to
simply mean ok. An eponymous work is currently on show at the Dowse Art Museum and she is
also included in the exhibition Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection at Christchurch Art
Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Mary-Louise Browne graduated from the University of Auckland with a Master of Fine Arts, First
Class Honours in 1982 majoring in sculpture. She is an established artist with an impressive
history of exhibitions and commissions for permanent public art works such as Byword, a series
of granite seats on Lorne St in Auckland, Font, a pool at St Patrick’s Square, in Auckland’s CBD,
and the staircase Body to Soul in Wellington’s Botanical Gardens.