Brendan O’Connell’s Art of the Supermarket
American painter Brendan O’Connell’s latest series of paintings focuses on the all too familiar: brands. Household brands, like Cisco, that you can find at any supermarket in the country have inspired O’Connell to paint canvas upon canvas of nothing other than their products.
Having experienced previous success with his series of scenes from inside Walmart, he enters this project knowing he has an eager audience. In fact, he has such support from the art community that his lowest priced paintings sell for at least $1,000. But a difference between the Walmart series and his latest venture is the complete lack of people. These paintings truly are just an interpretation of what is seen on the shelf, whereas the Walmart series featured people interacting with the environment.
Why is it that art buyers are willing to pay the hefty $15,000 for a painting of Crayola products? When quoted in TIME, the artist suggests that nostalgia for favorite products enhances the perceived beauty in a brand. By selecting well-known brands, such as Jif peanut butter, the artist is relying on the already existing relationship between product and consumer.
Although, with some of the paintings, the abstract style has made it difficult to physically make out what the labels say. They appear almost murky and the large brushstrokes obscure the products. While it may be difficult to define the image, the audience still immediately knows the brand, and this seems to be the artist’s ultimate proof of the strength of brands.
But nostalgia isn’t born straight from eating a really good PB&J, the reason the relationship between consumer and product lasts is because of the memories we associate with it. In reality, this series doesn’t seem to be on pickle jars or shelves of Oreos, it’s about human interaction. It may carry a slight undertone of the materialistic nature of modern society, but the heart of it lies with how we socialize.
Even with the absence of people, O’Connell communicates through his work a reflection on human existence. With the simple sight of Life cereal box, a person can be transported to mornings shared with family at the kitchen table and that is where the impact of his work lies.