Gabriella Brigo-Cowling

 

 

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Gabriella Brigo’s earliest examples of Machine Art were completed in 1996. She now devotes as much time to its creation as her teaching and other commitments allow.

Machine Art is a term she devised and now uses to convey the discipline and the free expression of the medium. Her work reflects a sharp eye for powerful composition and an uninhibited use of colour, allied to her vivid imagination. 

Her exhibitions of Machine Art include those held at Margate Library Gallery (1999), Nevill Gallery, Canterbury (2000 and 2002), Crabble Corn Mill, River, Dover (1999), Dover Museum (2002/2003) and Darwin College SCR, University of Kent at Canterbury (2000 and 2004), the latter marking the second appearance of her work on the campus of the University, with which her association as a lecturer followed her graduation (B.A. Hons) in1981.

All pieces are for sale, and commissions are welcome, please contact Gabriella for further information.

gabriellabrigo@btinternet.com

 


I Frati 2009 (70cm x 85cm Wall hanging)

Returning again to one of the most popular themes for her Machine Art works of choice - along with Landscapes and Wild Animals - Religiosity, Brigo has come up with a somewhat modernist take on a religious tableaux; insofar as the execution of the work owes as much to 21st century style as her earlier m/c artworks owed to antiquity. 'I Frati' is a suitably respectful portrayal of a group of Medieval monks, but conveys its imagery in slabs of almost monochromatic colour: greys, black & white comprising the larger part of the wall hanging; elements of flesh tone, and a startling employment of one bright shade of red for the prayer book held by - we assume - the Fr Abbott of the group. The predominantly monochrome aspect of this work is amplified by the surrounding architecture, and even the heavy [though not overpowering] border .. thick, dense and grey, befitting of a world before electricity had illuminated it. The fact that this is a night-time [or at least crepuscular] study of a group of celebrants adds to the generally low-key lighting in evidence in this study. Brigo has experimented more than previously with areas of flat colour - if 'colour' is the most suitable word. It compels the viewer to take a greater degree of account of the features of each of the 'Frati' depicted. This Machine Art may at first appear deceptively simple, and yet the longer the viewer spends visually exploring the contents of this frame, the more he or she is rewarded.

 

Head of a Girl: Clair & Stephanie 2001

This and its companion piece are commissioned portraits in special fabrics and cords adapted to convey the impression of hair, jewellery and features.  The subjects are the daughters of a friend of Ms Brigo-Cowling.  The style of these portraits reminds one of the celebrity Pop Art silk screen portraits of Andy Warhol.

 

The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) 2007 (170cm x 97cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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Created in response to a request which became a commission, Brigo ’s treatment of Da Vinci’s famous and controversial wall painting – executed in tempera (egg yolk applied to dry plaster) - visited by thousands each year in the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan , proves to be one of the Machine artist’s most provocative creations. It is additionally satisfying to reflect upon the fact that the city of the painting’s location is also the birthplace of Gabriella Brigo herself.

The initial request was not for a hanging of The Last Supper scene of Christ’s life, however - which came about as a recalculation – but for a pictorial representation of the Biblical description of Christ on the Road to Emmaus. This was abandoned on instruction after Brigo had done preliminary reading and sketches, and it was at this point that the Last Supper was agreed upon.

Work on the project absorbed Brigo for many months, longer than the six-month working schedule required to complete her 1997 magnum opus, Rhinocerous, a Machine Art treatment of the 16th century engraving by Albrecht Durer. The dimensions of this piece put it amongst the largest of Brigo ’s Machine Art works.

The chief fabrics used in the creation of this example of the Machine artist’s abilities include hempen cloth, silk, net, veil as well as lam� and satin. Over the background of the dining hall, in which Jesus and His disciples are seated at the table, are the thirteen figures themselves; each acolyte depicted in his moment of horrified reaction to the Lord’s announcement that one of their number would betray Him. The most difficult aspect to capture was the proliferation of hands in varying positions, the flesh tones and, not least, the hair and beards. Initially Brigo proposed to use human hair, obtained from, and with the full consent of, her own hairdresser, and even his customers, but human hair proved too problematic to use. It also produced negative reactions in some of the artist’s friends and relations, who considered it to have a ghoulish quality. Abandoning the idea of human hair, she elected to create hair and beards by means of different coloured fabrics, variously embroidered and drawn-upon, as used throughout this entire Machine Art work.

Fully deserving the wide respect and popularity with which it has been received, Gabriella Brigo ’s re-imagined concept of the Da Vinci classic – which ranks among the annals of the world’s religious imagery - acts as another personal milestone in the evolution of this major creative artist; one of which she may be justifiably proud.

 

  • Rhinocerous 1997 (133cm x 100cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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The challenge presented to Gabriella Brigo by Albrecht Durer’s (1471-1578) celebrated German Renaissance print was to create a work of Machine Art without the use of colour. Sequinned material, silver-grey silk, black net and fine stitching against a background of stone coloured linen combine to proclaim the dramatic simplicity of the woodcutter’s skill, and the power of this print in particular. Rhinocerous is among the largest of Brigo’s pieces to date, and work on it took over six months.

 

  • Movie Greats 2004 (260 cm x 60 cm Wall hanging) – Bids welcomed from �1,800

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    Gabriella Brigo enjoys a long interest in, and association with, the Cinema. She has attended sixteen Venice Film Festivals and is an accredited critic there. Here, for the first time, she turns her attentions as a Machine artist, to the Silver Screen.  In this mural she presents Machine Art depictions of five of the best-known films of the period from 1926 to 1961.  From left to right, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Gone with the Wind, with its classic clinch; the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, the famous images from the poster for Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. A fitting Machine Art portrayal of the most graphic images to have derived from the Cinema of half a Century, framed by a representation of the film stock on which they were recorded.  A homage in every respect.

     

  • The Siesta 2000 (78cm x 62cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �1,100

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Reclining farmhands in the shade of golden hayricks, stooks of corn and foraging cattle, an azure sky and discarded clogs and scythes combine to create a vision of bucolic tranquillity which presents a pleasantly torpid alternative to the robust and frenetic style with which Van Gogh is more readily identified. This is the third of Brigo’s Machine Art works devoted to her favourite artist.

 

  • Mask of Tutankhamon 2000 (88cm x 61cm Wall hanging, mounted on board) – For Sale �1,200

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Among the most enduring and instantly recognisable icons in the world, the funerary mask of Tutankhamon presented Brigo with an exciting challenge.  On a ground of soft midnight blue wool, the solid gold of the original is rendered by the use of gold metallic cloth, gold ribbons and fringes.  Items of jewellery and metal fastenings lend this piece a sense of the solidity of the fabulous Egyptian artefact, which weighs 11 kilograms and is on permanent display in the Cairo Museum. Measuring 88 cm x 61 cm, this piece is larger by half than the mask made to protect the head of the boy king’s mummy.  The original comprises a range of materials including obsidian, quartz, lapis lazuli, amazonite, semi-precious stones and coloured glass beads.   Brigo achieves an astonishing resemblance to the 18th dynasty mask through the use of more readily available components, and this Machine Art numbers among her most strikingly visual concepts.  The facial features of the Pharoah’s mask are especially worthy of mention.  The effect is achieved by a subtle use of gold thread over gold metallic cloth, beneath which contour-forming padding is used to produce a 3-dimensional, animate quality.

 

  • Siberian Tiger 1998 (83cm x 65cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �950

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A strikingly realistic head of a Siberian tiger - one of the world’s endangered species - is here executed in a range of imitation fur fabrics and set, for optimum emphasis, on a background of black woollen felt. The animal’s whiskers at first presented a problem for the artist, but after experimenting with guitar strings and the nylon bristles from a household broom, the desired effect was achieved by the use of millinery wire.

 

  • Blue Nude 1996 (82cm x 67cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �725

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Aesthetically the most satisfying of the series of Blue Nudes produced by Matisse (1869-1954) provides the subject for this deceptively simple example of Brigo’s Machine Art. Eschewing the opportunity to fashion a facsimile of the original’s flat colour scheme, the artist constructs upon a quilted background and employs multi-layered fabrics and netting on the female figure. The precise choice of colour also deepens and enriches the tonal value of the print on which it is based.

 

  • Ten Tonys 2002 (100cm x 60cm Framed behind glass) – For Sale �1,050

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As the result of a visit to the 2002 Warhol retrospective at Tate Modern, Gabriella Brigo developed her pencil sketch of the Prime Minister into a Machine Art that is at once an hommage and an irreverent nod to the work of the American Pop Art icon’s silkscreen techniques, reflected here in the ten individually characterised panels by overlays of diversely coloured material, such as net, silk, and voile, embroidered with metallic threads. From domestic politician to aggrandizing coalition statesman, the Tony Blair depicted in this energetic piece of work presents ten facets of the ‘Blairite’ persona, treated with Brigo’s typical strength of image and her innate sense of visual mischief.

 

  • Starry Night 1997 (135cm x 115cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �1,900

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Here again Gabriella Brigo turns to the vibrant and colourful oeuvre of Van Gogh. Her representation of one of the artist’s best known paintings loses none of the original’s passion in the transition from canvas to Machine Art. It numbers among the artist's largest hangings, and achieves its tridimensional effect through the use of multi-layered fabrics, padding, and some selective scorching.

 

  • American Goods Locomotive 1999 (126cm x 63cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �850

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This largely monochromatic detail of a north American goods locomotive, displays again the artist’s association with strong images.  This piece achieves dynamism through an unelaborate approach to the subject, and the inherent power of heavy machinery is conveyed through the use of circles, rectangles and hexagonal shapes with a dramatic use of light and shadows.

 

  • Industrial Pipescape 1998 (134cm x 111cm Wall hanging) – For Sale �1,750

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In the 1980s Gabriella Brigo produced a series of oils on canvas depicting pipes in industrial landscapes. In this scarlet monochrome Machine Art she returns to the subject of pipe-work with a view of a compressor at a Boston, Massachusetts, concrete plant. The opportunities afforded by dramatic light and shade, and the vertical-horizontal tracery of the pipe-work, create an effect that is both naturalistic and abstract.

 

  • Tree of Life 1997 (66cm x 52cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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In this modestly sized piece Gabriella Brigo depicts the Tree of Life in abstract form.   In predominantly pastel shades of pink and blue linen and net, with the significant addition of glass beads, the work is representational of her own three children at an embryonic stage.

 

  • Naviglio, Milano 1996 (74cm x 67cm Framed behind glass) – Private Collection

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This view of one of Milan’s canals is among the earliest examples of Gabriella Brigo’s Machine Art.  It employs a machine zigzag stitch technique - the result of her then embryonic knowledge of the stitching craft and the constraints imposed upon it by an unsophisticated sewing machine. The choice of subject matter for this exploratory work derives from the fact that Brigo is a native Milanese.

 

  • Este, City of Towers 2006 (55cm x 90cm Framed behind glass) – �2,300

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It is highly appropriate that Ms Brigo should have chosen this charming montage of the antique buildings and towers of Este, near Padua in Italy, as her latest work, since her associations with the city are long-standing. No less a personage than Queen Victoria was known to aver proudly that her roots could be traced back to Este. Ms Brigo’s mother, was born there, and her grandparents are all from there; her ‘Nonno’ - Giuseppe Coron - was both a serving member of the city council and an active ‘Pompiere’ (fireman). The subject of this Machine Art is a stylized representation of the abundance of indigenous monuments and towers, many of which are medieval in origin. The leaning campanile depicted is that of San Martino. The materials used in the composition of this hanging include linen, metallic net, assorted silks and a floral insertion to indicate the separation of the Bisatto canal from the city. The word Bisatto means ‘big worm’. Below the canal we see in progress some excavations of Palaeolithic relics, nowadays on display in the museum of the city’s castle.   

 

  • Houses in Auvers 1996 (135cm x 115cm Wall hanging) – �1,500

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Inspired by the Van Gogh painting, this impressive example of Machine Art is the first of Brigo’s considered attempts at producing work of a professional standard.  Composed of colourful silks and satins, it employs a free-stitching technique to achieve a tri-dimensional effect, which echoes the exuberant tone of the original.

 

  • A Loft with a View 2001 (90cm x 57cm Framed behind glass) – �750

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A formal Abstract constructed on horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, evoking a structure of light-admitting timbers and executed with Ms Brigo’s  customary robustness and intensity of colour.  Inset within the abstract, the ‘view’ is of Milan’s spectacular Duomo, focal point and vital centre of the artist’s city of birth.

 

  • Madonna and Child 1998 (65cm x 83cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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This piece takes as its inspiration the Madonna and Child of Buoninsegna in London’s National Gallery.  The medieval atmosphere is realised by the rich use of colour - dark blue velvet and gold lam� gathered and padded for a tridimensional effect.  A generous framing serves to emphasise the inherent antiquity of this small but intensely executed image.

 

  • The Dome 2002 (142cm x 84cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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The Millennium Dome, among the most controversial additions to the modern London skyline, is strikingly presented in this robust example of machine art.  Depicted at sunset beneath a blood red sky, the volume and grandeur of this much-maligned construction, on its Greenwich peninsular, is rendered in heavy silks and brocades of brown, grey and blue before a backdrop of the buildings of London’s commercial world, presided over by the Canada Tower at Canary Wharf.  Two further towers have been added since this view of the cityscape was created.  Numerous layers of veil were used to achieve the ephemeral effect of twilight over the River Thames.

 

  • Mollusc 2000 (50cm x 35cm Framed behind glass) – Private Collection

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Although, at first sight, this Machine Art appears to be an Abstract, in fact it is a detailed representation of a plankton-eating Mussel of the species Heteropod, the deadliest group of molluscs, which inhabit deep and shallow waters from the Poles to the Tropics. The genus depicted is catalogued as Atlanta Peroni.  Its translucent appearance is rendered by the use of shiny see-through materials in different colours, whilst the shell crust is made of gathered gold and silver lam� stitched by machine with metallic threads.

 

  • Skyscrapers 2001 (78cm x 44cm Framed behind glass) – Private Collection

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This piece is the first of a proposed series of urban landscapes seeking to explore the graphic potential of skyscrapers. In addition to the demands imposed by the unusual perspective, and sunlight and shadow, a hint of time-lapse photography is evident in the avenue of the concrete canyon. Skyscrapers offer unlimited variety in terms of design and a full range of examples are depicted in this piece.  The buildings are imbued with a quality of density and mass, the effect being obtained through the use of layered gauze, tinted nets and fine machine embroidery.

 

  • Friday Girl 2001 (54cm x 54cm Framed behind glass) – �600

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Originally intended for inclusion among a series of studies for Brigo’s 8 Sketches, this portrait has been substantially enlarged and is presented to stand by itself. It is the cheery representation of one of the artist’s colleagues, and is aimed at conveying mood and personality, rather than direct likeness. The impression sets out to be free of constraints by the use of gaily-coloured fabric flowers for the subject’s shoulder- length hair. Friday Girl has distinct associations with the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, as well as echoes of well-known ‘psychedelic’ album cover designs.

 

  • Underwater Scene 1997 (73cm x 60cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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This lighthearted underwater scene was created for a younger member of Ms Brigo-Cowling’s family, and was achieved by stitching a number of individual piscine forms on to a background of azure textile stretched to produce the wave pattern.

 

  • Lydia's Banner 2000 (130cm x 33cm Wall hanging) – Private Collection

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Not to be eclipsed by her elder sister Eliza, who inspired the Underwater Scene, Lydia Cowling requested this charming banner, featuring her favourite companions - teddy bears - for her bedroom wall.  In addition to its strong pictorial quality the perpendicular banner serves a practical purpose by incorporating a height measuring chart divided into 10 centimetre sections, and a primer in numbers and the alphabet.

 

  • Sunset, Stonehenge 2001 (84cm x 31cm Framed behind glass) – Private collection

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The roseate shades of sunset and the strong, low shadows combine to create an evocative impression of the well known standing stones on Salisbury Plain, the largest and most precisely constructed Megalith in Europe.  The crepuscular effect is obtained by overlaying orange and gold silk crepe with blue net.  The fine details of the stones and the visitors are the result of machine embroidery.

 

  • Tuscan Townscape 2002 (125cm x 85cm Wallhanging) – Private collection

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This stylised and colourful Machine Art is both an anthem to Gabriella Brigo ’s homeland and a muralist celebration of Italianate architecture. Rooftops, towers, archways and cupole abound, each defined by a strong black outline. The warm Mediterranean glow inherent in this piece is achieved by the use of layers of pastel coloured nets.

 

  • Venice at Dusk 2004 (72cm x 48cm Framed behind glass) – Private collection

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This panel was initially planned as a silhouette, in black and greys, of the Venice lagoon seen in the crepuscular light of an early autumnal evening. During work on the composition, however, Gabriella Brigo decided to add colour to the sky, to reflect the hue cast by the setting sun. The profusion of mooring posts in the foreground has visual echoes of a natural copse or tree brake, whilst in the middle distance is seen the familiar architecture of the Basilica di San Marco and its adjacent buildings.

 

  • Medieval Street, Liguria 1999 (80cm x 68cm Framed behind opaque glass) – Private collection

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In this medieval Ligurian street scene chiaroscuro presides in similar degree to the luminosity of colour in Tuscan Townscape.  While a sense of unobstructed sunshine informs the previous work, this piece presents deep shadows through the use of brown silks and variously textured gold materials. The occasional sun-kissed surface offsets and illuminates a sombre atmosphere of this timeless setting.

 

  • Weeping Woman 2001 (55cm x 62cm Framed behind glass) – Private collection

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After wanting for several years to turn her attention to an Abstract subject, Brigo elected to reproduce Picasso’s Weeping Woman. This Machine Art captures all the complexity and brilliance of one of the Spanish master’s most widely acclaimed canvasses, perhaps the best known and most highly regarded Abstract of the 20th century. During hours of contemplating the original, Brigo achieved a full, deep understanding of what went into the creation of Picasso’s masterpiece. The bold keyline technique of Brigo’s work, eschewed in certain of other of her works, such as Mask of Tutankhamon, Madonna & Child and Starry Night, is given free rein in this hymn to the work of a great artist.