THERE’S A STORM inside Brooklyn Whelan’s head. The born and raised Sydney artist, who paints mainly in acrylic, has a singular focus: the sky. In tilting his gaze upwards, Brooklyn is on a mission to re-imagine the landscape medium.
Sitting somewhere “on the fence between abstract and realism”, Brooklyn creates electric skyscapes; swirling masses of cloud broken up with angular intrusions of colour. Informed by his previous forays into the loose and fluid world of street art, Brooklyn – who now “prefers the grip of the canvas” to public walls – works without “any guidance”.
When asked to detail where his skyscapes originate from, he points simply to the middle of a blank canvas and notes that his pieces “take their own twists and turns”. Using broad, acrylic brushstrokes that give rise to organic shapes and movement, Brooklyn’s painting are conjured from a natural, “subconscious” state. Both their content and their creation mirror the artist’s fascination with the experience of watching a storm take shape and unfurl overhead.
“I love the power and romance of the storm,” Brooklyn says. “You stand out in the park and let this thing roll over you.”
The artist cites John Martin’s apocalyptic oil landscapes as a major influence on his work – but despite the influence of natural forces and 18th-century paintings, there is an undeniable futuristic streak to Brooklyn’s created worlds; the sense of the organic being influenced by the human hand. Clouds are not just clouds in Brooklyn’s works; rather, rising plumes seem indicative of an explosion nearby. Brightly coloured smoke acts not as a trick of sunlight, but as an abstract ode to pollution. Experimenting with neon light installations and using spray paints and oils for sharp pink lines that cut jaggedly through clouds, many of the artist’s compositions hold hi-tech, sci-fi qualities. These blazing skies contain the sort of sunrise you might wake up to if you lived in the Blade Runner universe.