I hope UGallery’s love for Kevin Brewerton isn’t coming off as too strong. But we are obsessed. This World Kickboxing Champion and artist blends speed with emotion. For any artist, the combination of strength and vulnerability is a winning match. Last time we left Kevin Brewerton painting on boxing ring canvases. We decided to follow up with him to see what’s happening on and off the ring. “The Art for Boxing” video is a little something extra.
Kevin Brewerton is one of Ugallery’s most intruiging and talented painters. If you didn’t catch our interview with Kevin some months back, be sure to give it a read. Kevin is a five-time World Kickboxing Champion. He was so prolific that Martial Arts Illustrated wrote: “If anyone in the sport of Karate hasn’t heard of Kevin Brewerton, then they must have been in a coma for the last ten years.”
Kevin’s awesome paintings include some boxing themes, especially in his more figurative pieces. Recently, however, he’s started working with boxing materials. In his most recent series of work, Kevin has been painting on the canvases that coat the floors of boxing rings. Some of the canvases at Kevin’s disposal are from the Rocky movies and Million Dollar Baby.
We asked Kevin to tell us a little bit about these pieces and tell us about a boxing ring canvas’s journey from gym floor to high art. Here’s what he told us:
I drive to a small warehouse in East Los Angeles to buy my boxing ring canvases. I like the ones that are used and worn the most. I’m looking for the history in them. You can see it by looking at them, there’s an energy. Most of these canvases have been fought on by professionals or amateurs, either in competition or in training.
There are a number of ways to attack the work here. I’ve decided to use Color Field to break up the canvas: fighting is about dominating the ring, which is not unlike how complimentary colors fight to dominate the space on an artist’s canvas. This, amongst other things, suggests to the viewer that he/she is seeing the history of the fight. I have this in mind as I paint.
When I work with the larger canvases, I paint from standing inside the canvas. I want to become part of it, part of the art. A strange thing happens when I’m in that space, I find myself the fighter and the artist. I am fortunate to have had first hand experience from both perspectives. When I begin to paint, these canvases take on a life of their own. Each one is as different and unique as an other. Even if I try to replicate a work I can’t. There’s something epic about it. It feels like something historic is frozen in time.
Photos courtesy of Juan Monsalvez
Kevin Brewerton was born in England and lives in Los Angeles. He is a five-time World Kickboxing Champion who was so prolific that Martial Arts Illustrated wrote: “If anyone in the sport of Karate hasn’t heard of Kevin Brewerton, then they must have been in a coma for the last ten years. If the sport of kickboxing karate was a sleeping giant, then it was Brewerton who came along and woke it up.” Kevin has since turned his energies towards abstract art. His paintings are grand, elegantly primitive odes to athletic figures with a link to Kevin’s own personal story and style. Read this interview for more on Kevin’s life as a martial and abstract artist:
Kevin in fighting times!
What’s your earliest art memory?
I remember the art teacher in my 6th grade school pulling out a plank of wood and threatening to beat us with it if we fool around in his classroom. He then told us that “Black is not a color.”
How did you get involved with art?
I was always an artist. Martial arts is art. But when i came to L.A. to study acting I found a mentor named Milton Katselas and he opened the door to art for me.
Kickboxing and fighting’s influence on your work is quite apparent. Are you the model for the forms in your work?
A lot of my abstract boxers are some type of self portrait. They are some part of me. All of my art is some part of me, it has to be.
That said, not all of the paintings I do are about stepping into a ring. My art should be able to take you anywhere. It should be everything. It doesn’t have to be significant. It can be fun or maybe you can fall in love.
How would you describe your work?
I don’t like to be put in a box. I think that an artist is free to create in any medium that he/she wants. However, I find myself drawn a lot to Abstract Expressionist type work. I find it very immediate and spontaneous. There’s a power in that - the expression is caught in that moment in time, forever.
Do you have a concept before you start a painting?
Sometimes I have an idea of what I’m after, but the idea in my head often changes as I work. You have to follow your impulses and be willing to discover something new and fresh - to shock yourself in some way or do something that you never envisioned.
Pollock used to say, “each painting has a life of it’s own.” A lot of my abstract boxers are painted on wood. This gives it an unpredictable quality because of the grain, which reminds me of facing an opponent. I enjoy solving the problems of painting while creating something unique. Usually, I find myself at a roadblock whenever I’m trying to be too careful, trying not to make a mistake. When I’m willing to take bigger and bolder risks in my work that’s when I discover something. It was the same way when I was fighting. When I learned how to have fun, and take risks I flourished and it became exciting and I was exciting. That’s how I won the world, five times over. It’s not different in my painting.
You mention Franz Klein. What is it you like about him?
I love his simplicity and yet there is a whole world in his work. It looks as if he took about three minutes to paint some of his compositions but they are thoughtfully executed. There is so much tension in the black and white, and the structures are architectural. In The Ballantine, if you look closely enough the whole thing looks as if it’s about to topple off the canvas. It’s as if the whole structure is somehow holding itself together. There’s a man in there who knows what it feels like to have to hold on.
How did you get into kickboxing? Do you still compete?
I was fired up after seeing Bruce Lee for the first time, and I found a martial arts school in a coal mining town in northern England.
High-level sports and visual arts don’t overlap often. Why do you think that is? Why does the combination work so well for you?
Most elite athletes are taught to be outward propelling - that is to not be vulnerable and to be strong in all areas. This sometimes does not leave any room for the artist to emerge. It works well for me because I believe that I am fortunate enough to have been taught how to cultivate my skills as an artist.
Through art I have also learned that vulnerability is a strength. When you fight you learn to put up walls so no one can get to you. In my art I’m trying to pull all of those walls down and be vulnerable, show my heart and be willing to fail. That is an artist - someone who shows their heart, all colors. I used to think that it would be the greatest to thing to have an unbeaten record as a fighter. Now I think that I pity any fighter who has never lost. There is so much to learn, losing makes you better, gives you more humanity. I want to show that in my art.
What advice would you offer to other emerging artists?
To see more of Kevin’s paintings, visit his Ugallery portfolio.