Interview with Eclectica Design and Art
Cape Town born artist Chris Denovan stopped by for a quick chat with Clare that soon turned into an extremely animated [pun maybe intended] hour and a half of laughter and ideas sharing. Having come from a supportive family with an artist mother, Chris had easy access to paintbrushes and studio life from a very young age. His interest in the human form and his particular approach to painting and art making have been developing throughout his life and the journey has been one of endless twists and new discoveries. As a young creative graduating from art school, like many others Chris felt lost and disillusioned as well as unchallenged to move forward as an artist. As a result of this, he moved toward animation and worked as an animator for a while as a way to acquaint himself with the growing influence of technology in our world. The methodical training enabled a new understanding of making as well as ingraining a kind of discipline of time and process, which is still very much a part of his daily routine – even after leaving animation to revisit painting.
Having grown up in Cape Town and studied here, Chris Denovan enjoys the sun and sea and mountain as much as the next person but it doesn’t always have to play into the influencing of his work. Often working with different models and once even being the subject on an American short documentary, Chris communicates with the rest of the world through his art. Instagram and social media platforms have provided the option to travel and explore varying inspirations and influences from his studio. While aesthetic plays a big role in the popularity of his work, Chris is interested in the process of creating and the narrative that the legacy of portrait painting maintains. As an artist he is very self-aware as well as cognisant of the genre he works in – the current trend in portrait painting doesn’t faze him – so long as he is able to make work that is interesting and authentic to his process. When I asked him about his process he explained “I’m always trying to create a sense of agency in my work especially with areas that I can’t actually claim to have any idea on. I’m actually quite isolated in my studio, so I’m making art that’s from stuff I’m finding off social media and things I’ve archived over the years. And this is dangerous also – because it’s so important to know where your references are coming from. I’m very aware of this so I make sure that I know how to locate my work.”
We spoke about the upcoming show for Eclectica Design and Art, Verging Thresholds, a theme that offers room for varying interpretations. Chris’s work often blurs boundaries of aesthetic and concept, with very evocative figures who confront the viewer in their depictions. His work for the upcoming exhibition will look at aspects of process, in relation to the way a work comes into being. The work will play with space, time and motion to try to bring in an element of movement into the tradition of painting. Chris is fascinated by the movement that goes into the making of a painting that ultimately remains fixed and still after its completion. The magic in his work often is in the depth and complexity that comes out of the layering of paint. Chris hates having work laying around and so he’s constantly revisiting work. Sometimes you just need a bit of space away from the work and then when you come back to it there’s just a couple of small changes or additions that can complete the painting.
As a young artist who has had his fair share of confusion and struggle to find his place, Chris stressed the importance of accepting the value of time and going one step at a time – that pushing yourself to be in big galleries and winning competitions as soon as you graduate can be unrealistic. “If I could speak to kids graduating today and coming out of art schools, I would have so much to tell them!” Chris said. The institutions have a complicated task in navigating education and passing on skill sets while also needing to equip students to be able to figure out the scene after they graduate. “A tough thing to talk about in an art school is how to make money from your art. You know, it’s totally against the grain of art in a way – it’s not supposed to be commercial, you’re supposed to look into yourself and create work that gets your own message out there. The dream is then that one day someone notices your work but that doesn’t happen to everyone!” We then discussed the challenges of creating work that can remain authentic to your own practice while still learning to find a way to support yourself. There’s a danger of losing quality if you stop being genuine. But the most important thing, according to Chris Denovan, is to be aware of time – that coming out of art school, maybe you have no idea of who you are and maybe you just need more time! If you give yourself time, you can figure it out for yourself and it becomes that much more valuable because you know yourself better, ultimately.
- By Clare Belle Patrick. 24 January 2017. Click here for original post.
Meta Minerva. 2017. Oil and glass stain on Plexiglas and canvas, fabric. 152cm x 74,7cm x 5,5cm. (Detail)
Temporal Shift. 2017. Oil, glass stain and cloth, on Plexiglas and canvas. 152cm x 74,7cm x 5,5cm. (Detail)