We have to write and revise our artist statements every semester and I always dread it yet also feel my work and ideas are improved by it. I’m usually too embarrassed to share much of the conceptual stuff with anyone other than my professor and fellow students because I’m afraid it might sound like lofty, philosophical/ artist jargon/ mumbo jumbo, etc, etc. And maybe some of it is, but anyway I think I’m going to try to be more open with the stuff and just LET LOOSE and practice sharing it because that’s what I plan to end up doing, after all. Photo gallery with some of my related works and links to artists and other influences are inserted in the text.
Derived from taxis, meaning movement/arrangement; and derma, meaning skin the term taxidermy, loosely translated, means ‘the movement of skin.’
In an attempt to memorialize an animal, its hide is stretched and sewn over an artificial armature. To preserve the animal, its body is disposed of and its skin is adjusted until it appears lifelike.
In an attempt to represent ourselves to the world, we stretch our skin in different ways as we try to connect to other people, to our environment, to our memories and to ourselves. But they are failed attempts. Our need to connect is inevitably hindered, not only by an inability to connect fully, but by our desire to remain hidden. Through painting I hope to convey this disconnect by asking: Is the figure is disappearing into the landscape or emerging from it? Is the gesture of an arm moving to cover the body or to reveal it? How is a figure in an ill-fitting suit different from the unrecognizable taxidermied creature it stands beside? Which is the authentic animal?
This is a disconnect I feel with those I know well and with strangers (though sometimes, oddly, to a lesser extent.) It exists in my grasping for memories and my suppressing them; in the fact that my memory is a version of me that no longer exists. This disconnect exists in every virtual profile that indexes my interests, likes and dislikes. By arranging the skin to represent the self, are we opening windows of clarity or putting up screens of obscurity?
Francis Bacon, Ann Gale, Cecily Brown and Bruno DuFourmantelle—in very different ways— distort the figure, ground, or relationship therein to create an experience that feels more real. They equally address what is unreal in our ability to believe what we see while knowing it is only pigment arranged on a surface; an arrangement of skin we are to believe is a living animal.
In my paintings, figure and ground do not exist as isolated or separate entities; each changes and shapes the other. They are battlegrounds of vagueness and clarity, believability and impossibility, understanding and disconnect. Moments of thick, heavy and over worked paint are met with moments of quick gesture, thin washes and scraped away paint; they oppose one another yet depend on the other for meaning. The oppositions in the paint mirror the human conditions I want to explore in my work. Man’s desire to simultaneously kill and memorialize is a distinctly human contradiction. As an artist and as a person in the world, how am I the taxidermist and how am I the animal? I want to address our human capacity to be both at once.
I <Chris Allen> bg by Jordan Speer