Artist Profile: Brooklyn Whelan


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.

Having worked for many years as a creative director, Brooklyn acknowledges that his background in design often dictates the impeccable composition of his works, and that his studio space – which he shares with similarly heavy-hitting artists such as Jonathan Dalton, Martine Emdur, Giles Alexander, Michael McIntyre, Gemma Avery, Ali Noble and Adrian Hobbs – has likewise “got to be white and square”.

Leaving his job as a magazine art director over four years ago, Brooklyn mentions that he stumbled upon his unique meshing of angular and organic motifs when he was simply trying to “work out where he fitted” within the art world. There is a disarmingly self-deprecating manner in the way Brooklyn brushes off credit for his conceptual practice. Having exhibited regularly at China Heights gallery in Sydney since 2014 – and with representation by galleries in London, Hong Kong and Atlanta – Brooklyn’s skyscapes have quickly carved out a particular niche. With his first international solo show, Pressures, set to open at the Nelly Duff gallery in London this March, Brooklyn will be personally accompanying his Sydney-born clouds to the other side of the world. Those in the United Kingdom might take solace in knowing that the artist will be bringing his weather with him as well.

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