Inspired by the imagery of cities and the cultural implications of post modernity, abstract oil painter Bryan Grose has orchestrated a body of work that explores the intersections of space, shade, tone, and essence. Abstract art, by nature, suggests contrast. Grose’s work explores the contrast between modernity and post modernity, space and structure, freedom and limitation, light and dark, desire and void, and the varying shades in between.
Grose was born in Rochester, New York in 1969 to a middle-class but well-educated family. At a young age, his family moved to a rural town south of Detroit.
The Grose family was close, and the children were encouraged to read, learn, play music, make art, and embrace creativity. There were plenty of tools – paintbrushes, canvases, guitars – available around the house to expand their boundaries, and they were given ample freedom to do so. A nurturing creative environment, coupled with the contrasting experiences of city and rural life, bred his inner artist.
In reflecting on how he came to the craft, he says, “I feel I was always an artist...I was always expressive as a kid and interested in a lot of different things. Creative as a child, always drawing, reading or playing guitar. Paintings were around the house along with a few dozen art books and a couple hundred others of various topics. A few times a year we would visit the art institute in Detroit or Toledo.”
As a teenager, Grose craved understanding and pursued many avenues to build his repertoire of experience that became infused in his art. He played guitar in bands in the Detroit area, worked in various jobs, including auto mechanics, to support his education, and became an accomplished runner. Competitive by nature, Grose gave every activity his greatest effort and total focus.
Grose maintains that music has always been a significant aspect of his creative development and evolution – both in terms of creating music and using others’ music evoke the deepest reaches of his imagination. “Detroit has music venues for classical, blues, metal, and punk. Over the years, friends and I visited all of them...We learned something from the differences of the places, people, sound, and emotions. Going into Detroit was half the event.” Grose appreciates growing up in such diversity – of music, art, and culture – which is evident in his artistic expressions and outlook on life.
Eventually, Grose’s passion for art made it clear what he wanted to do and went on to study art at a local university. There he was able to merge his discovered love of drawing and sculpture with science, earning him a BFA with a minor in science. Initially, Grose thought he would pursue a career in medical illustration, a career choice that was inspired by his physician grandfather. He changed his mind, however, when a professor suggested he explore prosthetics. Here he found his career calling, which provided a means of incorporating his passions of art and science, helping others, and earning a sustaining living.
While carving out his niche in life, Grose also developed an intense love of traveling. He took a break to backpack across Europe after graduation, which gave him a better understanding of the world, fed his creativity, and instilled a love of adventure. “The imagery of European cities or even the view from a train, people I have met, or just being on the street and taking it all in. Learning about someone else’s life: where they come from, their challenges and experiences. All of these serve as inspiration in my work.” Grose continues to travel as often as possible to feed his passions, soul, and creativity.
In his early work, Grose was primarily interested in representational art and painted in a realistic style, but after a vacation on a family property in the Toronto area his artistic path changed drastically. “I decided to paint this barn door outside on my relative’s farm: a weathered old door. Initially, I wanted to depict the scene realistically, but soon I cast that aside and decided to let the paint drip and the earth tone colors to blend together and not completely control things. I liked the result and found myself thinking about it for days. I reworked the piece on a larger canvas with success. Years later, I primarily work in abstract expressionism.”
This change to Grose’s work unearthed a depth, grit, and rawness that he refined and developed over time. His vision on that pivotal day in Toronto pushed him to be more authentic, take risks, and explore new methods and techniques in art. He has pushed himself to become more prolific and create pieces that are more aesthetically unconventional and evocative.
“My process is a mix of brushwork and any object with a fairly straight edge. Putty knife, found metal object, cardboard etc. Early on I would start out painting a line on a canvas and work at breaking it apart. I was interested on what happened peripherally and the visual relationship that was created. I discovered there was strength in these images and found I was able to tell a story though them. Reinventing it, making them dynamic and because of the thought processes behind it visually showing those complexities. Descriptions or narrative aside, the work needs to stand alone and hold up as quality abstract art. It needs to speak to the viewer, pull them in and make them feel something emotionally. "It needs to be visually interesting with a strong composition."
Grose has certainly created a style that is uniquely his own. Each piece of art is different but is clearly identifiable. Even as he evolves as an artist, the tone of each piece reflects a character that could likely only come from the internal stories and external representations of Bryan Grose.
Grose currently lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.