Chris Packer

Chris Packer

Looking at my work

Looking at Gotta Zip, installed at Articulate Upstairs, 2014


Partly because it is a visual medium, and putting it into words kind of defeats the purpose, but also because different things are going on, depending on your perspective, I am not really inclined to want to specify what my work is ‘about’.

In terms of genres, the work generally fits into ‘non-objective abstraction’, but whilst I would agree that the work is abstract, this doesn’t necessarily make it non-representational. Abstract art still represents, or refers us to, abstract ideas that are difficult to put into words. It is true that the work doesn’t contain objects you see in the world, but I don’t think it’s terribly useful to define a thing in terms of what it doesn’t do. Plus, what if in my work I want to ask “What is an object?”

That will tell you that there is a philosophical side to it, and I do find myself working out what I think through making and observing, the ideas generally developing out of the materials and processes I’m working with. Even when the work is very carefully designed before the making, the result inevitably yields new discoveries, and new points of departure.

Paint and canvas, colour and light have properties that suggest or dictate certain processes. Rules form around them, and these can act as a kind of a grammar for human experience. As well as suggesting personal associations and prompting emotional responses, the stuff of painting – placement, support, ground, surface, illusion, history – is able to directly evoke the dialectical nature of existence: absence and presence, coming and going, open and closed, concealed and revealed and so on. In effect, even when you’re making “painting about painting” you also produce art about life. I don’t really think of it as ‘reductive’, because this implies that you take an image of something in the world and then remove the complexity – reduce it to basic forms. My process is equally ‘constructive’. I look at a material like paint or canvas or tape, or a process like stapling or hanging and to see what it might offer as a language. In any event, I see the work as being both at once.

In a similar vein, individual works will belong with others even as they stand alone. Just as people identify as individuals and as members of a group at the same time, so my works can present in series, compounded, repeated and reiterated.

The Planes, for instance, a series of discrete paintings on gallery walls, turns out by a shift in perspective also to describe overlapping planes stretching out in an expanded pictorial space. Niceties, from the Red Tape Amnesty exhibition, was later re-made as a new independent work, Documentation. As the name suggests, it documented its own previous iteration.

My titles shouldn’t be taken religiously. Sometimes they might provide a clue as to what the work is ‘about’, but often they just state the obvious to get it out of the way. My hanging tapes aren’t meant to remind you of flystrips, but I’m happy to admit the resemblance. Anyway, some of my best memories involve the old fish-n-chips shop!

Mostly I work with an aesthetic hunch, rather than a particular intention or theme, and it may not be until after I’ve played around with a process – sometimes not until an exhibition is up – that it reveals what it’s ‘about’.

There is often an element of humour in the work, which shouldn’t be taken lightly – taking the piss is a response just like any other, and more direct than discursive pontification. And I wouldn’t take my seriousness too seriously either.

If I suggest the sorts of things you might see in what I’m doing, I have to be careful not to expect you will actually see them – or I’ll go mad. While I have intentions for the work, these are more to do with the design of the thing. I’m curious as to how it will turn out, in the world. I don’t set out to elicit responses – other than visual interest – so your response is really up to you. I subscribe to the idea of the intentional fallacy: the fact that the artist intended it to be in the work doesn’t necessarily put it there. Still, no matter how wrong I am, and how often, I am always surprised.

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