Unable to leave his home and studio in Ghent, Belgium, during the global Covid-19 pandemic, Brey turned to the color blue, which he associated with the sky and the sea, symbols of an unattainable expansiveness and freedom. In his works from this period like Cinnamon Fern (2021), Brey adopts an almost exclusively blue palette, a significant departure from the earth-colored ochres and rusty reds of previous works on paper.
Bringing together artificial floral elements with organic tree bark—paralleling Brey’s ongoing exploration of the tumultuous relationship between humanity and nature—illustrations of plants and rhizomatic forms, and a hazy cloud of indigo against an oil stained background, Cinnamon Fern evokes the sense of a fractured memory of nature, pieced together from fragmented thoughts and fading recollections.
Brey’s use of the dark indigo pigment on the tree bark, artificial plants, and over the penciled botanical illustrations marries the two- and three-dimension aspects of the work, mirroring the fluidity with which the artist himself moves across traditional and non-traditional mediums. Blending the dark and shadowy aesthetics and environmental themes of Brey’s earlier works with the signature blue color palette characteristic of his work today, Cinnamon Fern is a manifestation of the artist’s continually evolving artistic ethos.