Friday, January 2, 2009 to Saturday, February 28, 2009
Christopher Faust presents 8 canvases, a 20 foot by 9 foot wall mural (created with his brother David Faust) and two large drawings in his first solo exhibition at the Laconia Gallery. Faust walks a fine line between realism and abstraction drawing on both to describe the landscape and to generate mystery in open ended narratives about our relationship to nature and the idea of discovery.
In the most recent work a series of six vertical paintings (all 2008) the artist uses realism to make each location recognizable in order to effortlessly enter our mind’s inventory of places we have seen. Each of these canvases comfortably present a horizon and a foreground but the details of these start to upend their own realism. Limbs and bushes melt into patterns of abstract shapes and swooping lines that seem to self-propagate spreading a fractal, abstract brushwork throughout areas of dense foliage. These nonrepresentational areas of flat pattern amplify and support the the hidden mystery of a shadowy stand of trees or vine covered hillside by allowing our imagination to run a bit trying to define these repeating abstract shapes. This tug-of-war between known and unknown is the focus of most of the larger scale works on canvas and captures the sense of discovery and primal exploration that these wooded areas have for the artist. Faust lets us feel like we are both outside and outsiders when he sends us ‘Inland’.
The paintings in the lobby gallery including the wall-sized mural represent the earliest work by the artist in the exhibit (2005 – 2007) and employ a more specific narrative involving man’s relationship to nature. The mural is painted in the style of the french wallpaper maker Zuber – famous for the sprawling panoramas of exotic forests or painterly Hudson River scenes popular in the early 1800’s. Chris worked on this mural with his brother David Faust, who is also a talented artist that, along with Chris, maintains a day job as a high-end decorative painter. Their ironic use of a clear-cut forest (actually two forests: from internet images of South America and the Pacific Northwest) riffs on the powdery blue sky of Zuber papers and the simplified color palette required by those block printed papers in an acrylic on canvas work that completely fills the wall. The deep pictorial space is as beautifully painted as it is harsh in its smoking, harvested subject matter. In the other large painting in the lobby the aftermath of a long past storm is shown in the twisted monumental remnant of a roadside sign quietly memorializing Mother Nature’s fury.
Chris avoids an overly romantic picture of these places by admitting that they are not unexplored or pristine. He includes summer cottages, primitive cabins, trails or stairs in the tree filled landscapes to remind us that we may be here to escape seeing other people, but these places are to some extent public. These markers of humanity anticipate an unexpected encounter or even fear of an accidental trespass in the participant. In one image we are actually behind another figure walking down a trail into what looks like a clearing. The distance is just far enough to allow us to be undetected and the back of the figure unidentifiable. The openness of this and the non-specificity of each setting allows them to represent the wilderness or the idea of “Inland” as an irresistible place of mystery and discovery.
– James Hull, Curator
Artists website: www.christopherfaust.net