Trevor Brown (1959) is an English artist who has been living and working in Japan since 1994. His provocative subject matter seems to instantly divide its audience, in two groups, lovers and haters. Brown uses strong contrasts in his work; dark (bondage, injury, swastikas, etc.) versus light (cuteness, innocence, pre pubescent girls, stuffed animals,etc.). His opposed attitude and love for controversy is grounded in the punk ethos of the late 70’s Britain when he came of age.
In the perception of the superficial Western observer Brown’s work can easily be pushed into the light of pedophile glorification. But his art is actually a counter reaction to the Japanese cultural phenomenon called Kawaii (literally translated ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’), that represents the culture of cuteness in Japan. This has probably to do with the desired effort of the Japanese to cherish the childlike behavior inside of them.
Fetish Eye Masks
In Brown’s universe the cute little girls have black eyes, bruised or bloody mouths, and are rigged with medical instruments. They look at us with their big ɱanga eyes and share their deep sad melancholy sometι̇ɱes emphasized by fetish eye masks. This direct contrast enhances the force of Trevor Brown’s imagery into an outlandish importance that is difficult to resist.
Japanese Adolescent Female
Although his work is mainly bought by Western collectors, Brown is among the few Western artists who also succeeded in building an art career in Japan. The typical Trevor Brown fan is a young Japanese adolescent female. There are even Japanese websites and blogs where numerous female fans mimic the scenarios and poses of the Һeɾoι̇nes in his paintings.
Nazis Are Sexy
Probably Brown’s most (in)famous series is Li’l Miss Sticky Kiss and in particular the painting Nazis are Sexy (Fig.3). It shows a pre-pubescent girl with a swollen black eye, dressed as a SM
Helpless men chained to various instruments of torture humiliated by bossy mistresses wearing leather boots and intι̇ɱidating outfits. In Bernard Montorgueil’s world it is clear who is calling the shots. But,..
mistress wearing a peaked cap and a costume with a large swastika on it, while holding a concentration-camp Doberɱan. Some critics assumed the black eye is evidence of child abuse. In an earlier interview Brown reacts,’Who said she was a victι̇ɱ of child abuse?’ ‘How do people immediately come to that conclusion? They are making the sinister associations, not me — yet I get the blame for them! You want to make people think or affect them. To that end I do consciously make my work ambiguous and open to misinterpretation , deliberately sending out conflicting messages.’
Fig.3. ‘Nazis are Sexy, Li’l Miss Sticky Kiss‘ (2002)
In the past, Brown designed record covers for controversial underground artists such as G.G. Allin, John Zorn and Deicide.
His work is sometι̇ɱes confused with that of the Pop Surrealist Mark Ryden (Fig.4).
He has been banned for life by Paypal after a person complained to them about his work. They immediately without warning closed his account after deeming his work to be pornography involving minors.
Unlike Paypal, we try to look further and do give this artist a stage. Judge for yourself…
Fig.4. ‘Nurse Sue’ (2006) by Mark Ryden
Fig.11. ‘Saint Sebastianna’, Rubber Doll‘ (2005) Oil
Fig.13. ‘Crash Ballet’, Rubber Doll‘ (2005) Oil
Fig.14. ‘Balloon girl‘ (2018), Oil
Fig.16. ‘Sad Eyes’, La Nursery Noire‘ (2017), Oil
Fig.18. ‘Julia Dream’, La Nursery Noire‘ (2018), Oil
Fig.19. ‘Alice Kowai’, Trevor Brown’s Alice‘ (2007)
Fig.20. ‘Alice Kurai’, Trevor Brown’s Alice‘ (2008), Oil
Fig.21. ‘Dumpty’, Trevor Brown’s Alice‘ (2008), Oil