I like a lot of things about Christian Lock’s paintings. I usually visualize them lined up in his large studio to the south of the city, where he works across multiple canvases. The museum scaled, pooled, and impasto-ed paintings speak of course of European and North American abstraction. But I like their other, more local references, too. And I like his attitude.
I also like Lock’s titles. They champion narrative and humour above the purity and universality that you might expect from High Modernism. It is easy to see them as an equally important component of the work. They are ironic, always coming from a highly individualized perspective. They make repeated nods towards death and other highly dramatic narratives. Most importantly, the titles point us towards a broader cultural focus.
Lock’s father was the artistic director of the seminal surf clothing brand Golden Breed, whose invention of sci-fi fantasy surf art is a legacy for these works. Sci-Fi and Surrealism are often recognised as related - respective by-products of internal and extraterrestrial scientific exploration. In Australia, we might add another triad - surfing - which exists as a very immediate and accessible entry into transcendence.
Also perhaps important is the rapid transcendence available through drugs and popular culture. In works such as Taste the Space Candy we can see the imprints from graphic design in magazines or video clips. At other times holograms, clothing designs, or car paint effects manifest themselves. Glitter paint was invented in South Australia (the product of a rivalry between Murray River speedboat owners, cooked up in a suburban workspace - much like Lock’s).
Lock’s works are not mere collages or sampling. The idea seems erroneous - as wrong as the phrase 'surfing the internet' has always been. Just as in that analogy, the body is inert when online; in surfing and large-scale painting, one is always fully embodied. In Lock's case, the body is equally important when viewing his works. Also, surfing is a creative act, and reading online could only ever be considered active in relation to, say, television. When I think of the function of Lock’s paintings, they stand in for a more creative, digested and active engagement with culture.
Abstract Expressionism’s ‘truthiness’ was aimed not only at the materiality present in the current act of painting, but in reappraising works that preceded them. It saw itself as a general raising of consciousness. If we think of abstraction and Lock’s works, they perhaps more function like a dream. Easy and difficult things have been brought into a strange continuum. Light appears without a source. When viewed in an exhibition, their homogeneity both hides and reveals the sequential moments of their construction. And just as in a dream we are unsurprised by sudden counter-logical appearances. Rather than a scientific raising of consciousness, I much prefer Lock’s wilful and mystical distortions to it.
Andy Best, 2011