Sunday, 01 February 2009 09:09
By Ronnie Girdham CourierMail
GLENN Brady came to his craft by a circuitous route, living rough, dabbling in drugs and addling his brain with booze.
This week he celebrates the 18th exhibition where his art has hung. The celebration is a collection of works depicting the Brisbane streets of his former life and the hopes he sees in the eyes of their people.
"I'll paint the people, the good and bad, the normal and strange, the happy ones, some in love, some angry or sad," he said.
"They dwell among the never-ending grid of main roads, car yards, video shops and fast-food joints.
"There may be a filthy factory on one side of the street, and a beautiful jacaranda tree on the other."
Brady has been interested in art since he was a youngster, inspired by Pro Hart works that illustrated a book of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson poetry and stories.
But there were no art lessons at school and Glenn's post-school life became an aimless amble through the punk world, drinking and drugs, anxiety and depression, and hospital.
At 26, when he was in the Royal Brisbane for treatment, nurses noticed the doodles he'd made in sketch books. Someone spoke to someone else and Glenn emerged with his first showings of seven works in the Schizophrenia Awareness Exhibition in 1993, selling them all.
He is proud to have been in that showing every year since.
Now 42, he paints regularly, using acrylics and oil pastels on canvas.
"At first, it was on calico. It was only $2 a metre, and not too expensive for trial and error," he said. "I'll see something, or something will pop into my head that I want to paint. Sometimes it's from years and years ago.
"I have seven sketch pads, all filled. I can be painting two or three at a time and I don't like to paint two similar ones together."
One in the new exhibition, She's In Love, sees a hopeful woman in a street of rickety houses by a railway line looking wistfully towards the home of the apple of her eye. Another, He Looks Out for Her, shows two hospital patients puzzled, wondering.
"I see good things and bad things, which is how I feel I am, actually, half OK and half not. Split right up the middle. A good person and not so good, but always trying."
Glenn now lives just 200m from the coast at Byron Bay, a regular bloke who surfs, runs with his pet dogs, mows the lawn and paints.
Of his former life, he said: "I was having fun with many types of people – funny, loud, rude, crazy, violent and, in many cases, now dead.
"There were a lot of giggles but it all went pear-shaped."
He can boast 14 solo exhibitions on Australia's east coast, and paintings also hang in the United States through an internet site. An agent in Virginia orders his originals after collectors inspect online photographs.
In 2006 Glenn won first prize in the Gold Coast Art Show for a painting in the category The Last 100 Years.
The 30 works in the new showing are all at least a metre tall or wide and carry an average price of $700.
Glenn Brady Exhibition, Joshua Levi Gallery, 4 Ipswich Rd
Woolloongabba, February 12 to March 10; 11am to 7pm Tuesdays to Sundays.