Putting Things in Perspective: David Brody and Elliott Green

Studio 10 Nov 18-Dec 18

David Brody, Swamp Thing, oil on linen, 18”x12,” 2014

Brody and Green paint unpeopled, brightly colored, constructed landscapes. By constructed I mean they are neither observed from nature nor painted from photographs.

In both men’s work, video games come to mind—specifically the background landscapes (the viewer becomes the player of the game— two different games actually—and also the game pieces.) The works are hand-painted with brushes or spatulas in Greens case. Green didn’t program textures and design mats and hit replicate and Brody didn’t employ the labyrinth function on photoshop (if there is such a thing.) Technology continues to take over image production, perhaps, but painting will go on as well because of its unparalleled ability to comment, objectivize, subjectivize and, well, try to make sense of our visual world, now including video games and CGI.

The paintings are also constructed using the rules of perspective which are not really rules, more like systems invented to interact with our incessant perceptual effort to find out where we are. To be convinced of this, check out Otto B. Wiersma’s visual essay “Perspective Seen from Different Points of View”:


Elliott Green, Untitled, oil on linen, 18”x 12,” 2014

Green makes an effective use of occlusion; if the contours of object A interrupt the contours of Object B while not completely obscuring it, Object A is closer. A hint of warm (near) and cool (far) distribution and whatever is higher on the picture plane is farther away. Here is a ukio-ye print (that I love) that uses the latter method.

Torii Kiyonaga, Interior of a Bathhouse


Elliott Green, Laughing Smoke, oil on linen, 58”x36,” 2015

Green also sparingly uses images that we more or less know the size of or think we do, like the castle town. It’s amazing how much “perspective” he achieves without the use of any point perspective at all. But Laughing Smoke focuses too much on the “castle” and I prefer others that allowed me to swoop around without a predetermined destination.

Elliott Green, Blue Swerve, 18”x12,” 2014

Like this one. In my version of the game, I’ll be using a sky sled.

David Brody, Saboteurs, oil on linen, 42”x 36,” 2015

I think Brody is using isometric projection: all vertical lines drawn vertically and all horizontal lines drawn at 30 degrees from the base line . (If that’s not not correct, maybe he’ll write and tell us.)

He did write:

It’s a method used for engineering and architectural drawings because you can build from it—it also places the viewer in an ideal position to try to figure out how to climb the structure. We are presented with an almost vertical face, almost parallel to the picture plane, interrupted with ledges, caves, and openings into deep atmospheric space. It’s a ruin, it’s a mountainous cliff.  I will need ropes and pitons, and there will be cul de sacs, treacherous water slides, seemingly solid ground that isn’t and thin air.

David Brody, Untitled, oil on linen, 42”x36,” 2015

I mentioned that the landscapes are unpeopled, but are there signs of inhabitants? Are the formations natural in Untitled? In the upper right corner, definitely an arched bridge that completely escaped my notice even though I drew this painting, see


I am led to believe that if I continued to visit this painting, it would continue to unfold.

David Brody, Swamp Thing (detail), oil on linen, 2015

In this detail from Swamp Thing (see above) has someone tried to facilitate their climb with a log placed diagonally, or do those logs shore up a building— are those windows? Is that a cannon on the peak? This also screws with my sense of scale—my avatar becomes smaller, then bigger, making that climb more difficult to plan.

Swamp Thing works in the most intriguing way of Brody’s paintings shown here. The structure continues off the picture on all sides of the canvas; it is a detail of something immense. Figure and ground start to change places and color is used in a playful way especially about indicating distance. The brightest orange in Swamp Thing is deep space, blued colors inhabit the foreground. I begin to recognize it as a brain— my own? Are these stored memories of places I’ve been— the narrow ledge begins to look horribly familiar. And I think, “Should I be looking at this?”

Just another word about perspective. Do look at the Wiersma. There is no one way to construct reality, you know. That has led some people, for ex. the odd bedfellows,  semioticians and climate change deniers, to think there is no reality, and that slippery slope leads to electing Trump.  —CNQ


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