Chris Small

Chris Small

Chris Small

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
    Artist’s Statement

    I am fascinated by the way we can see ‘time’ in the visual traces of marks and fossils seen on the surfaces of the Earth-the way time stops when the Australian lights ‘hits’ us in a way that we stop and pause, feeling its restorative and soothing balm. My work explores the layers of stories, seen in natural objects such as shells, sand, fossils, marks, trees, hills, creatures, as well as our own lived experience through abstract techniques. In the moment of viewing these objects, we recognize their past and the present collapses, challenging our socially constructed notions of time. When I have taken time to reflect on what nature teaches us about ourselves, painting has become part of this conversation with myself, over time becoming an integral part of my own mental health recovery and healing from trauma.

    The marks and the technique of scratching back a mistake orbit that didn’t ‘fit’, a mark discarded by covering it up returns and reveals the surprise of beauty underneath –the ‘mistake’, the past, then forms part of the emergent final piece. This process is reflective of the nature of healing into recovery- we are never the same again, but we can reshape our stories as we move through the pain. Our wounds become scars that have the power to tell our new stories.

    The psychic hits and bruises left across our hearts and bodies- both visible and invisible, may still lie just beneath the surface but they carry as well, our beautiful strength and survival, the layering of time producing a palimpsest that hints at pour past. We are changed by our experiences, but with active healing, we can change the narratives of our lives- our wounds and scars become marks of survival, our marks of stories of strength and vulnerability. We are like the tiny shells that have broken apart after many years of being tossed about by the wind and water, becoming through time, the soft sand that holds us, absorbing and reflecting the light.

    I paint in an intuitive way- I don’t plan my paintings, although I know generally what I want to paint. Often what emerges on the canvas is not what was planned at all. I use a mix of oil, oil paint sticks, charcoal, natural ochres and pigments as well as pencil and inks, often painting over previous works. Exploring shapes and mark-making, moving the paint around to create different effects, I draw shapes over sections that I find interesting or appealing with charcoal and oil sticks and pencils. I scratch back the layers with sharp objects- whatever is at hand -once they are partially dry to reveal the colours underneath. This layering can occur many times over until it feels finished. I paint into and around the shapes by blending colours together to create movement and I attempt to recreate the feeling of sitting inside the glow of the unique Australian light at sunset.

    I want my work to light the curiosity of the viewer … the patterns and colours reminiscent of the rocks, the light playing on the sand at different times of the day, shells, grasses, small creatures and seaweed washed up from the sea or hiding in the red sand of the desert. I want my work to pull the viewer in closer, to ponder on the marks, colours and layers, to re-connect with nature, even when we can’t get outside, to remind the viewer to take the time to connect with nature because it is vital to human survival -if we do not look after our natural world we will be left as mere traces in the Earth’s palimpsest.

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