A young artist is making waves, both locally and internationally, with his latest body of evocative work which shines a light on his experience with depression and growing up as a gay child in an otherwise conservative community. Brünn Kramer is his name, and shining a light on the things many don’t talk about is what he’s exploring.
“I explore the intersection of gender-based issues, homophobia and religious prejudice that is based on my lived experiences in an attempt to understand my struggles with depression, and communicate the complex prejudices I endure in my daily life,” says Brünn Kramer. He will be exhibiting at the RK Contemporary art gallery in Riebeek Kasteel (one of the oldest towns in South Africa) from 8 – 29 August 2021. Quite fascinating that these newly discussed topics are finding a temporary home in such an old town. Part of Brünn’s charm perhaps.
Born in 1994 and raised in the small Karoo town of Steytlerville, Brünn completed his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at Nelson Mandela University and is currently underway in completing his Masters in Fine Arts at Rhodes University this year. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions all over South Africa, including the prestigious Turbine Art Fair.
His portraits, which explore the humanness of ex-prisoners, were also selected for the Sasol New Signatures top 100 art competition in 2016 and 2017.
Brünn’s art explores mental health, and his latest work and exhibition – entitled “Tronkvoël” – is a continuation from his previous research and practical work on prison culture.
“My previous work explored social issues in relation to prisoners and ex-prisoners. My current work stems from a more personal experience from when I was diagnosed with depression.” Depression in itself can sometimes feel like a prison too.
Brünn explains that being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in 2018 and his experiences with depression led to feelings of utter despair and a peculiar isolation, which triggered a feeling of imprisonment. “Through my art I explore a theme of depression feeling like a self-constructed prison. I aim to shed a new light on society’s perspectives on mental health-related illnesses, as this too is often seen as taboo – particularly in communities of colour”.
Brünn, who works in a variety of mediums, including charcoal, photographic transfers, paint and linocuts – with a combination of burning and smoking techniques using candle soot – harnesses old family photographs as well as recently captured selfies in his artworks and incorporates objects from childhood games such as glass marbles, with prison objects like paper mâché dice and shivs.
Astrid McLeod, owner and curator of RK Contemporary, says that she is excited to have Brünn exhibiting at the gallery once again – this time as a solo exhibition. “Brünn Kramer is a rising star and has been a name to watch for some time now. Not only this – but the man himself seeks to challenge the norm and to do things differently – this is an ethos shared by RK Contemporary.”
“Artists engage more now on social issues that affect humanity, from climate change and politics to mental health, whereas if you look at art history there were a lot more landscapes and portraiture than where the focus is now. Art should do more than just be there to beautify a space but should be used as a platform to engage society and allow people to see things from a different perspective. Brünn’s work does both,” says McLeod.