As with many artists, spurred by practical considerations owing to the current global situation, Brooklyn fine art painter Christopher Saunders contemplates his creative process and further investigates past ideas into an aptly titled series, Recurring Fields.
With limited studio access these days, Christopher has found ways to keep making work, adapting to a new mode of creation, and developing his work utilizing tools that allow for exploration and experimentation.
Continuing to investigate ideas incepted in 2018, Christopher invited Bicycle Fine Art to discuss his process and the details behind the Recurring Fields series. These small works on paper are composed using color ink, acrylic paint, and tape, showing a play between positive and negative space as well as additive and reductive practices. While these paintings are a continuation of previous works, Christopher continues to develop and experiment.
Speaking to the smaller scale, one of Christopher’s goals is “to make that size hold a full experience.” Confronted with these works, the viewer is immersed in a simultaneously buffering and disjointed digital landscape. Along with the smaller scale, Christopher likewise restricts his color palettes to 3 to 5 colors. This limitation allows him to “stick to simple and more ‘fast’ materials.” Colored inks and acrylic paint allow for a faster drying time, yet once a stroke has been committed to paper, it cannot be undone. Thus Christopher sees these works as “a challenge with making artwork, it is really the first decision, and does dictate what’s possible to some degree.”
This fast-acting decision making is demonstrated most clearly in the work Untitled 4 (Recurring Field). The upper part of the work carries Christopher’s signature homage to landscape, while the lower half reveals the influence of dissonance through a blank space, here rendered by strategic placement of tape. Though small in scale, this work on paper grabs the viewer’s attention through its materiality. The use of tape and splotched inks lends a grittiness to the work reminiscent of the crackling dissonance of a malfunctioning television or the end of a VHS tape. Much like a paintbrush or rather an eraser, Christopher uses the properties of tape to reveal a signature gesture that is distinct to his process. By applying then removing strips of tape at various stages, Christopher can create depth by redacting the “blank canvas,” essentially moving it forward and ensuring a dynamic conversation between paint and paper.
Visually a cohesive series, each individual work possesses its own distinct personality. Reflecting on this idea, Christopher notes that, “Each holds a physical memory and can on occasion take me back to the decisions made in developing each one; the wins and losses so to speak.” The sense of calm created through a limited palette can be experienced when viewing Untitled 1 (Recurring Field). The absence of color near the bottom leaves an opportunity for the eye to rest, while the soothing blue and cooler tones above soften the linear composition, disrupting the otherwise strictly rectangular shape. Since these works on paper offer significantly less workable surface area than many of his larger-scale paintings, Christopher was challenged to reassess his creative process and priorities. With Recurring Fields, Christopher’s compositions explore the essential components needed to invoke memory and meaning, intentionally limiting the means of expression without compromising the emotional resonance of the finished product.
There is a rhythmic staccato inherent to this series, almost mimicking the music Christopher listened to while painting it. While there appears to be a familiar recurring cadence to each work, a semi-formulaic breaking up of space, there is something unique hidden between and beneath the layers. Christopher notes that while his music choices vary greatly in range in order to keep himself focused, there is “a relationship to the work, or rather I hope the work has a musical quality or alludes to the experience of listening.” Just as the composition mirrors the different musical notes and progressions, so does its color palette.
Though working on a smaller field, Christopher has managed to invoke musicality through the contrast of muted and jarring hues. Dark blacks against the white ground as well as soothing blues and grays evince the tonal quality of the song. In Untitled 12 (Recurring Field), the dark hues emote a rich complexity most likely tied to Christopher’s engagement with the type of music that he was listening to at the time. Like a stormy sea, each work seems to reach a climactic crescendo before softening to an area of nothingness evoked by the negative space. Though Christopher creates his own playlist for when he is in the studio, his work, in turn, composes its own score for the viewer, harboring a variety of interpretations, experiences and emotions.
Due to the global pandemic, Christopher has relocated from his studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to his personal quarters in New York city.
“The biggest change in terms of practice is finding a way to work within quarantine,” says Christopher. While adjusting to a new normal throughout these last six months, Christopher continues to search for ways of “relearning that art practice is ultimately about your interiority and less about physical spaces.” By projecting this idea of looking inward, the viewer is encouraged to connect their own realities within Christopher’s ‘Recurring Field’ series; one which may be directly influenced by the current climate. Christopher’s introspection resonates with a unifying emotion that makes these pieces of their time and yet simultaneously timeless.
When asked if he had any new works or ideas on the horizon, Christopher answers, “Always, but right now the focus is getting back into the physical studio space after so many months working from home. Time to get the rust off.”
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