Brett Amory

Waiting #126 2012

121.9 cm x 121.9 cm (frame 78.2 cm x 78.2 cm)
Oil on board

Brett Amory's atmospheric, expressionist paintings of "average Joes" make him an L S Lowry for the globalised era.

Brett entered into formal art training in his late 20s. Always entertained by his own amateur artistic experiments, he enrolled at San Francisco's Academy of Arts. "It was a vocational establishment and my technique was poor", he says. "I was told to take additional workshops, where I discovered a subculture of hard-working students whose industriousness spurred me on. As my technique grew stronger and my art knowledge expanded, I realised the art world cared more about emotion and concept than realism."

A moment of clarity, experienced three days into self-enforced sobriety, prompted Brett's acclaimed Waiting sequence of portraits. "The Waiting series was initially inspired by riding San Francisco's BART train into work", he says. Brett became aware of the disconnection between commuters. "Many people packed together on a train, but nobody talking to each other. Everyone waiting to be somewhere else." He began photographing train carriages and passengers, then painting their likeness from the images.

"After I quit drinking years later, I realised the interesting aspect of my commuter paintings wasn't 'people waiting to be somewhere else'. It was, 'What's happening while you wait?' Most of us aren't really in the 'now'. And when we're waiting for something or somebody we're always thinking about shit we've got to do, what's happening at work, how it's going with the girlfriend… so I started making these paintings about not being in the present moment."

The first Waiting paintings used significant amounts of white negative space. "I stripped out the environment leaving only the figure and a few supporting elements", says Brett. "I hoped the viewer would evoke emotion from the figure rather than analysing the painting, and I'd have captured a specific moment in time." Many of these paintings were exhibited at Brett's first exhibition with the Lazarides organisation, January 2011's Intentional Abstractions at The Outsiders London.

The follow-up, 2012's Waiting 101 at The Outsiders Newcastle, used dark negative space within paintings to create edgy urban ballads. Shrouded in gloom, the works were also open to the interpretation of the viewer: was Waiting 132's middle-aged male subject, leaning against his executive saloon in the pitch black, picking up his daughter from soccer practice… or did he have a more sinister agenda?

With recent works, such as those due to be on display at the forthcoming exhibition Twenty-Four in London, Brett has begun to paint more detailed, colourful city scenes to the delight of critics and fans. "With the latest paintings my goal is for the viewer to respond to the location as much as the figures", he says. Following on from the lauded recent exhibitions Tweny-Four in San Francisco and Tweny-Four in New York, the exhibition will feature community vignettes from Britain's capital.