Brain Candle

Marjorie Hellman

Born in Trenton, New Jersey

Resides in Central Falls, Rhode island


Born in Lyon, France

Resides in Lyon, France

Like a window into another world, Brain Candle brings together two exhilarating artists that play with the idea of visual space and manipulate the very picture plane. Their works contrast in physical presence, but the underlying themes of historical narratives (whether formal or photographic) place the artists in a colorful conversation. The exhibition’s title evokes multiple meanings, some at odds with each other but all interrelated. The notions of physical labor and mental toil are both part and parcel of artistic output. Work must be done if work is to get done. If we look to the old adage “burning the candle at both ends”, we are reminded of contemporary capitalist ideals of working through the night for a better product and future. But is the end result double the brightness or half the duration? Why not think of the human mind as this proverbial fuel source? Using it fully and with real force, grand works of imagination and artistry are possible; the delicate balance between the mental and machine-like ferocity constantly reminds us of the humanity behind any work of art. Burning this brain candle at both ends creates the type of abundant illumination and inquisitive personality present in the show.

Both Marjorie Hellman and SLip toy with the structure of physical reality by subverting space. Hellman works at the juncture of two and three dimensions in a geometric trompe l’oeil that can simultaneously recall both Cubist collage and mid-century hard edge painting. SLip creates at the intersection of the virtual and the real. His digital compositions flatten the timeline of visual history in an attempt to create disquieting scenes of fictive narratives. The artists are each keenly aware of their visual predecessors, and push through direct allusions in an effort to create work that adeptly melds human artistic process with the fine detail of mechanical production.

Hellman’s paintings use color and contrasting shapes to create the illusion of depth and translucency on the two-dimensional plane. Works like Queen Anne at Sutton Place (2019) push beyond their flat surfaces in an attempt to explode into the third dimension. Interested in the crisp perfection of the painted plane, Hellman is adamant about creating a direct connection between the object and the audience. By removing obvious brushstrokes or any other reference to the artist’s hand, she “challenge[s] viewers to think about how the painting was made, to ponder and appreciate the process without clues,” (M. Hellman, Artist Statement, 2021). Finessing such subtle illusions from shaped aluminum panels requires a commitment to formal constraints, something the artist does with gusto. Likewise, her works on paper like Collage 4 harness the shaped support in an effort to create a trompe l’oeil effect with an abstract form. These colored pencil and gouache pieces further the illusion by introducing faux woodgrain, the inclusion of false depth, and rendered patterns that continue to confuse and challenge the eye.

Working in the digital realm, SLip creates collages that mine the visual archive in an attempt to marry traditional cut-out methods with virtual space. Complex, enigmatic narratives form within his square frames that appropriate printed and virtual imagery from across time. Black and white photographs collide with computer renderings amidst a bevy of precarious narratives that leave the viewer looking for the next scene. Interested in the ways in which sources can be decontextualized to stand in for anything and everything, SLip crafts amalgams that subvert the images’ original meaning and deposits them into a universe of his own design. Though the viewer may see these works on a screen or in a physical form, pieces like Ne pas lui laisser la place (2021) exist in a transitory state. Physical images cavort with myriad pixels in a startlingly apropos treatise on our hybrid lives.