Q&A with Christian Lock - Art Collector

Christian Lock, installation view, GAGPROJECTS/Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, 2015.

Abstract painter Christian Lock talks to Art Collector about his current exhibtiion at GAGPROJECTS/Greenaway Art Gallery.

This is your first solo exhibition since returning from New York, where you undertook a Samstag Scholarship at Parsons. Tell me a bit about this experience?

I loved having a studio in Manhattan and Parsons has a really strong MFA program with a great group of lecturers and students from all over the world, we had studio visits and talks from artists like James Hyde and Katharina Grosse. It was very stimulating environment to be in whilst developing a body of work. I consistently got to see amazing shows in my 12 months in NYC. There was so much great abstract painting on display. All the historical abstraction in the Museums and the contemporary stuff in the commercial spaces made the experience exhilarating just to be immersed in it. There’s a real dialogue happening around painting in NYC, with regular artists talks and panel discussions debating the state of contemporary Abstraction. This forced me to be more rigorous when examining my own practice and at the same time I think I moved towards a more casual approach to making and a more direct and immediate way of generating a painting.

I like your idea that painting belongs more to time than space – can you explain what you mean by this a little further?

For me, the activity of painting constitutes a series of events that unfold over time. I’m interested in a way of painting where the body leads the mind, where the physical intelligence of the body generates an ongoing dialogue with the analytical mind. I said in a statement about this recent work: “The physical intelligence of our bodies is a recording of past occurrences into our flesh, even our analytical minds are formless, until given shape by some outside prompt. Our echoes to stimuli are lined with complex patterns built up over time through seemingly unrelated events”. In this sense paintings are a record of time, in the way they are constructed but also in the visual data that is captured.

You’re large-scale monochromatic works in this series are stunning – what’s your process here?

Its a bit like making a giant mono print; the painting gets made on the floor on two large sheets of plastic, pushing white paint around with an air gun and brush until some kind of structure presents itself, then the white forms and gestures are spray painted black, I repeat the process until the entire surface is completely blacked out. Its more procedural painting than pure process: although I try and let the painting make itself there are still some compositional interjections. The last step is gluing the canvas to the black surface and then peeling the painting off the plastic to reveal the image.

You’ve referred to the movement of this work from the floor to the wall as appearing like repeated resurrections. The large-scale work currently installed at GAG PROJECTS too, seems almost angelic in form. Was this a conscious exploration of the spiritual and if so, what inspired it?

As the painting builds in reverse on the plastic, which is essentially a surrogate surface, the image sinks under the weight of its own layers and disappears into the black. It is not until the image is resurrected, lifted from floor to wall, that we can experience its transformation. It is in a way, seeing consciousness unfold, expand and come into being in a unpredictable way, if its something spiritual that’s being explored its the urge to follow an unknown path into transcendence.

You’re a seasoned painter, but more recently your works have started to occupy a third dimension. Is this something you will continue to explore?

I’m always looking for a more malleable way to make a painting. I imagine creating a painting process that is like manipulating a lump of wet clay in your hands pushing it around until it takes form. The three-dimensional works are an extension of this painting process, the paintings are just pushed around further twisting and folding the canvas in an effort to manipulate the composition further.

There are many binaries at play in your work – control and chaos, presence and absence, space and illusion, tangible and intangible – what interests you about these types of ideas?

I see abstract painting as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of who I am and the world I live in. We live in a world of extreme contradictions. It’s through the equalization of opposites that harmony and balance are obtained. The ultimate reality is where a unity of opposites exists.

Camilla Wagstaff

Christian Lock's solo exhibition is on at GAGPROJECTS/Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide until 14 June 2015.

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