Since the late nineties, the art of Christian Lock has consistently inquired into painting’s position and relevance in contemporary visual culture, and its relationship with other media and technologies.
Lock’s artistic enterprise has been fuelled by an ambitious attempt to reassess and rejuvenate the pertinence and possibilities of painting in an era marked by the predominance of electronic technologies (cinema, television, video, cyberspace), and the proliferation of a vast variety industrial, mass-produced surfaces 1.
The canvases and mixed-media works compiled for this exhibition are the most recent fruits of a dynamic and constantly expanding practice; one that has merged Lock’s proficiency as a painter with his experience as a sculptor and surfboard manufacturer. This innovative, interdisciplinary approach has, to date, spawned astutely conceived and superbly crafted artworks distinguished by their striking scale, format, exquisite melange of media, and dazzling juxtaposition of complementary patterns and gestures.
Take witty, wonderfully-titled works like She Cost Me a Spot in the Team (2005) and She Won the Heart of a Contract Killer (2005), which utilise MDF supports, holographic and computer-generated reflective surfaces, acrylic paint and polyester resin. The contrasting forms, gestures, colours and surfaces which collide and coexist
Respectively, Owens cites photography as a cogent exemplar of allegorical art, one that represents the desire to fix the transitory and ephemeral in a stable and stabilising image. Another indispensable impulse in allegory is its capacity to confuse and blur the rigid boundaries separating aesthetic mediums and stylistic categories. “The allegorical work”, Owens observes “is synthetic; it crosses aesthetic boundaries; this confusion of genre...reappears 8 today in...eclectic works which ostentatiously combine previously distinct art mediums” .
These various allegorical impulses - the appropriation and recontextualisation of images, the suspension of movement and continuity, and the synthesis of previously distinct mediums – are beautifully negotiated and transformed in Christian Lock’s canvases and polyester resin slabs and tablets. In canvases like Return to the Promised Land (2005) and New Fighting Words (2005), one encounters nebulous, unwieldy flower- or vulva-like apparitions that recall the biomorphic forms found within the imagery of Modern artists like Andre Masson, Juan Miro, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and others. Lock’s elusive, spray-painted, and spectral, forms with their irregular, wrinkled, concentric rings shift and mutate with each reproduction, resembling portals or voids, or alternatively, burgeoning and wilting supernovas.
Comparatively, Lock’s opulent and opaque, cola-coloured reliefs such as Living like a Rich Kid (2005) and Poison Apples for Longing Lovers (2005) mimic the accentuated and grandiose shapes of gothic and baroque mirrors, and appropriate two exemplary formal elements of Modern painting, the brushstroke and the grid. The former was once regarded as an unmediated marker of an artist’s spontaneity, authenticity, emotion, and personality , whilst the latter proved to be a more ambivalent, multivalent and “schizophrenic” structure signifying both rigid materialism and transcendental spirituality. Lock’s synthesis of these contrasting signs throughout his resin-based artefacts is partly indicative of an attempt to reconcile what Donald Kuspit sees as the historically volatile relationship between an organicist abstraction based on the brushstroke and a mechanicist one 11 premised on the grid .
But the encasing of brushstrokes in translucent layers of resin seems to conjure the allegorical desire to suspend the transitory and ephemeral in a stable image. Indeed, one can discern a sense of transience, fluidity and flux in Lock’s artefacts that is simultaneously be arrested, embalmed and preserved...a manoeuvre analogous to the idiosyncratic operation of photography.
However, it is perhaps the final allegorical impulse that cogently encapsulates the novelty and ingenuity of Lock’s eclectic aesthetic: namely the capacity of his art to confound the boundaries between aesthetic mediums 12 and stylistic categories via the blending of supposedly distinct mediums . The joyful, exuberant complicity of Lock’s practice with what Clement Greenberg regarded as the “spurious” Other of Modernist painting (i.e., ersatz culture, industrial techniques, mass-produced commodities), is precisely what enables his work to both revitalise the basic constituents of painting and, more significantly, relate to the surfaces and processes of other media: photography, television, video...and music.
Contemplating Beautiful Days (2005), with its multiple plateaus of broad, buoyant brushstrokes and its glittering grid of golden orbs, I think of the retro-chic styling and neon lighting of discothèques and the pulsating rhythms of electronica, particularly the dinky melodies of Daft Punk. For me, the lush, lavish strokes overlaid onto the luminous holographic lattice are the visual counterparts to the French dance duo’s distinctive brand of techno: wiry, buzz-saw guitar riffs superimposed onto crisp, taut, motorised electro-funk loops and boppy, slinky samples.
In the alluring, multifaceted art of Christian Lock, painting does not confine itself to its own limits in the in these works elicit a plethora of phenomena: the “seductive sheen” specimens.
2 of commodities, the iridescent glow of neon lighting, and the cold, clinical glare of microscopic
1. M. Kutschbach, ‘Stuff in Flux: An Exploration of Uncertainty within Surfaces as the Result of a Material Based Painting Practice’, Masters Thesis, University of South Australia, 2004, p.4.
2. L. Mulvey, ‘Some Thoughts on Theories of Fetishism in the Context of Contemporary Culture’, in October, no.65, Summer 1993, p.10.
3 C. Owens, ‘The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism’, in October, no.12, Spring 1980, p.68.
4 ibid., p.68.
5 ibid., pp.68-69.
6 ibid., p.69. 7 ibid., p.69.
8 ibid., p. 75.
9 D. Hickey, Roy Lichtenstein Brushstrokes: Four Decades, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 2001, p.15. See also J.A. Hobbs, Art in Context, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, New York, Atlanta, Washington.
10 R. Krauss, ‘Grids’, in October, no.9, Summer 1979, p.60 & p.64.
11 D. Kuspit, ‘The Abstract Self Object’, in F. Colpitt (ed.), Abstract Art in the Late Twentieth Century, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002.
12 Owens, p. 75.
13. J. Derrida, ‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ in Writing and Difference, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1978, p.292.