West End Studio? Tour preview: Clare Brennan

By Andrea Tomkins –

Clare Brennan is a collector and a scavenger as much as he is an artist. His sculptures – wooden beings which hover somewhere between playful robots and curious cousins of Pinocchio – are all made out of found objects, bits and pieces Brennan often finds on his walk to work. In fact, he has been known to peek in neighbourhood garbage cans, which can throw home owners for a bit of a loop if they see him.

Wood makes up the base of most of his work, but it has to be the right wood.

“I want a piece of wood that has a history. An old fence post, or hockey stick, it’s all fair game,” says Brennan.

Clasps, knobs, metal scraps that lived a life before, are reincarnated and turned into teeth, noses, hair, and other body parts.

“I just find these wonderful little bits of things, and the fact that they’re broken and rusty makes them even better,” says Brennan.

WEST artist Clare Brennan gives new life to the rusty bits we throw away. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

Sometimes Brennan begins with an idea (“I want to do a guy with a curly trumpet”) or he finds a special item and builds something around it.

“Once you start looking, there are so many great things to see,” says Brennan.

Visitors to his stop on the tour will spot a sculpture of a fish that’s hanging over his front door. “The scales used to be shiny, but it has rusted and evolved over time,” says Brennan. “There’s a wonderful level of decay with rust.” [story continues below]

Brennan’s latest beings have been given centurion names and rusty armour. Photo provided by Clare Brennan.
Brennan’s latest beings have been given centurion names and rusty armor. Photo provided by Clare Brennan.

The layer of rust is the secret sauce, the added dimension to his work, and the reason why there are “aging” bikes in his backyard. “They are waiting to be ripened to just the right point,” he laughs. There is logic in his seemingly chaotic collection of heads, buttons, and old street sweeper bristles.

Brennan is looking forward to this year’s WEST, and says it’s a great way to meet people. He recommends visitors on the tour take a moment to chat with the artists.

“When you talk to them, they’re usually very open and wonderful to talk to.”

For more information about Clare Brennan, visit cbrennan.tumblr.com or westendstudiotour.ca.  

Click here to read profiles of the other artists on the West End Studio Tour.

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