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Brent Coffin – Artist On the Horizon

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Artist Profile – Brent Coffin
by: Vanessa Wade

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Brent Coffin is a person to watch in the Newfoundland art scene. Currently showing work at the J.L. Gallery in the city of Corner Brook, Coffin is an emerging artist working in a variety of mediums, most notably oil painting and fabric art. A graduate of the Visual Arts Program at Grenfell College, he majored in Renaissance painting, a style very evident from his engaging works. Add to this his work in corsetry and gown design and you have a true creative force to be reckoned with.

Coffin works out of his home studio in Mt. Pearl where he produces everything from drawings to watercolours and oil paintings to corsets and gowns. In addition to his own personal art practice, he is available for commissions which include landscapes and portraits and other mediums upon request. He has earned several grants from which collections of paintings and fabric art pieces have been crafted. He has just been awarded his 5th grant, with which he is working on a new series of paintings for a series entitled “Camouflage”.

Coffin’s work is available for viewing on his website where one can see paintings, drawings and photos of his textile creations. The site contains three galleries showcasing his broad and impressive gifts. Gallery One features his oil and watercolour works along with several drawings. The detailing and quality of his work is evident and distinct in all mediums. The work blends classic and contemporary in a splendid array of colour and light. Many eras of painting come to mind in Coffin’s work, Renaissance and Surrealism most notably, as well as modern fashion illustration and photography. Gallery Two of Coffin’s site showcases intricate textile pieces. The gowns, corsets and head pieces are a natural extension and compliment to his work as a painter and are sometimes the subject of paintings themselves. His skill at corsetry is apparent upon viewing the images, a true celebration of female form that carries over to Coffin’s elaborate gowns and headpieces. All of his textile work combines organic natural shapes with show stopping glamour and bring to mind designers such as Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen and John Paul Gaultier.

Recently, I caught up with Coffin on the phone from his studio, where he’s working on his latest series of work. At the moment, he is working on a series of three paintings for the project, all of which pertain to issues of racial diversity. Featuring women of different racial backgrounds blended into floral motifs, the series looks at internalized race issues as well as being “in the spotlight” due to racial objectivity. A “circle of light” or halo around the subjects of the paintings represents that spotlight. Issues of identity, says Coffin, are an integral part of his work and he hopes to take on homophobia in future works.

As with past projects, Coffin hopes to merge the paintings of “Camouflage” with his ongoing “Living Gowns” project. One of these gowns, known as “Black Swan”, is a major part of the series. The gown, made in part from some decor from his wedding, started with black organza that was molded into a shift dress with appliques of velvet and satin. Coffin says that the process of working on gowns such as “Black Swan” feels like “drawing or painting in 3D” and this process informs his painting, with dresses inspiring paintings and vice versa.

Coming up for the artist in addition to much work on “Camouflage” and “Living Gowns” is an event called the “Fancy Dress Ball”. Set to take place on January 1st from noon to midnight, the event is a silent auction of art as well as a fashion show featuring local shops and designers. Coffin will have four of his gowns showcased, including the “Black Swan” gown….and more…

by: Vanessa Wade