Brenda Draney’s paintings have a gentle way of welcoming in a viewer. Working often from personal stories, Draney obscures definitive details and leaves surfaces bare, allowing the viewing experience to come undone. She employs an intuitive yet conservative amount of gestural brush strokes revealing just enough information for the compositions to feel familiar. In the case of Smelling Salts, the works feel more like a visit to a loved one than an encounter with a painting. Painted moments, like glimpses through doorways into rooms, recollections, or emotions, stitch together a different story for each witness. Flickering between suffering and healing, silence and screaming, subject and void, the observer passes between sterile rooms, mundane views and the warmth and animation of human bodies.
With one of the gallery walls painted a subtle, clinical pink, Smelling Salts draws a link between medical and art institutions, questioning the structure of these spaces to house softness. Both establishments attempt to, in the most efficient way, facilitate, organize, and systematize centres for healing and creation. These environments are reductions of form, allowing operations to remain focal. They are simultaneously an achievement and a failure because humans do not fit so easily into simplified boxes. Like scaffolding, hospitals, galleries, and even stretchers provide a framework perhaps too rigid for the soft, vulnerable, and intensely human processes that are being performed within.