Interview by Virginia Broersma
I recently visited the studio of Chris Trueman in Upland, CA. His studio was piled deep with paintings wrapped and ready to bring down to his upcoming solo show “Lineage” at White Box Contemporary in San Diego, which opens June 22, 2013. I was lucky to be able to see the paintings while still in the context of his studio with that palpable sense of being freshly finished and the residue of “making”. Chris and I had recently learned we both are oenophiles so we sat down to chat over a couple bottles of pinot noir and some cheese while we discussed his work.
Virginia Broersma: I usually like to start by talking about what you’re working on right now. You’ve got a solo show coming up at White Box Contemporary in San Diego that you’re sending work off to; are you also painting at the same time?
Chris Trueman: Yeah, well I literally just finished the last piece for the show last week. Now it’s just a matter of wrapping them up, getting them down there, and dealing with the practical side of things.
VB: You also have a two-person show up right now in Los Angeles at Art Merge Lab titled Gestural Geometry– I was curious if you’ve heard that phrase anywhere else? It’s such a fitting description for the type of work you do, which I’ve also seen in other artists’ work – this sort of hybrid or pairing of gestural painting with geometric and hard edge forms. Do other people use that term?
CT: That was the first time that I heard that term, but what is also interesting is that term has also been used in a description of a show that I have upcoming that Carl Berg curated at AndrewShire Gallery. That particular description was also there. I think it makes a lot of sense although I don’t know if it implies that it makes gesture out of geometry or if it talks about the combination of these two things at once.
VB: Have you heard of other ways artists working in this vein describe it?
CT: I think that what is interesting is that “Op Art” had been sort of written off for a long time, and that a lot of artists are exploring these Op and moiré patterns. Anoka Faruqee has some interesting moiré patterns in her work, and Garth Weiser is another artist that is working in that vein.
VB: I’m glad you brought up “Op Art” because I haven’t even thought of your work in relation to it. Definitely you have some kinds of optical effects happening, but when I look at your work, what comes to my mind is our current connection to technology and the digital (and I associate the more geometric and non-organic forms with that) and then combining those with something that is very human and body oriented like gesture, and so I wonder if it’s a combination of wanting to reconcile those two things a little bit?
CT: Yeah sure, I think a lot of this work has a screen-like appearance, where the gesture has been sort of mediated by the stripes or bands, so in that sense there is that connection to the digital. What I am also interested in is this sort of nebulous space that you can get into, where op art is essentially a reflection of how you see things- it reflects back at the body, and you realize that its making your eyes do funny things, or it’s making you dizzy or feel this or that. Gestural painting or abstract expressionist painting historically has always been meant as some sort of a transmission, whether it was an idea or a feeling – non-verbal communication.
VB: What’s the most enjoyable part of the process for you?
CT: Sometimes when I have to mask almost the whole painting, I mask it and the underlying layers are covered up. I have a game plan of how I’m going to approach the next layer but I don’t really know what that’s going to look like. It’s either going to destroy or make the piece. And I’ve had both! So when I pull it off and it more or less did what I thought it would do (or sometimes there are some surprises that I’m really fascinated by) then that’s really fulfilling.
VB: There’s risk involved-
CT: Yeah for sure. I’ve destroyed a painting that was 80% done.
VB: What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?
CT: Well, this might sound cliché, but I do subscribe to that idea that each painting is a problem. I have these “ingredients” and these tools, and then I have these ideas about how the piece should turn out and what it should do and what it should act like. Then I have to reconcile my own ambitions with what is actually happening in the piece. To get it to a point where I think there are some interesting tensions happening, where I haven’t overworked it or beat it to death – I think that’s where the challenge is.
VB: But you enjoy that challenge?
VB: Your work clearly addresses a lot of formal concerns; I’m wondering if emotion and psychology are things you consider?
CT: Oh, for sure. The emotive qualities are there. I tend to not talk about them a lot or discuss them because I’m really cautious about the language surrounding my work interfering with the process of experiencing it. So even with the titles… I’ve almost completely eliminated titles.
VB: Yes – that was something else I was interested in– could you talk about that more?
CT: They were originally working titles, and what ended up happening was I came up with a coding system, sometimes based on the colors, or what I think it looks like early on in the painting, and it becomes a series of initials. What I’m doing is denying a certain access to language as a way of describing the work.
CT: I have speculations. I have ideas about what I think people will do, or think or how they’ll act. But beyond that, it is out of my control.
VB: Could you give an example?
CT: Well, I know for a fact that certain striped patterns will activate visually at a certain amount of feet away. And I know that the viewer is going to need to go through that space in order to get close enough to see some of the details that I planted there that are much smaller. So I can fairly well expect that they will experience this movement or this shift that happens in the painting at that amount of space. Then I can also predict what will happen at say, 2 or 3 feet of distance, because it changes; the scale changes things a lot. I’ve come to start to anticipate that and set up scenarios where viewers will want to change the distance and angle in order to get these things to work. At least I hope.
VB: There’s an element of surprise, and discovery….
CT: Yeah, different elements are revealed. I really don’t want these to sit still.
VB: Where can we see your work?
CT: I have several upcoming shows and art fairs that open in the next few months in San Diego, Los Angeles, Aspen and Houston, with ongoing shows also in Los Angeles and Washington DC. I will be having a solo exhibition entitled Lineage at White Box Contemporary in downtown San Diego. The exhibition will run through July 20th with an opening reception on June 22nd. I’m also in a two-artist exhibition with Joe Lloyd called Gestural Geometry at Art Merge Lab which runs through August 29, 2013. Then in August I will be a part of a two-person exhibition at AndrewShire Gallery with Mira Schnedler curated by Carl Berg.