Chris Pig | British Printmaker
March 2010 - East London Printmakers
November 13 & 14, 2010 - Atlanta Printmakers Studio
I've been printmaking almost ever since I can remember; I made my first etching plate when I was about fourteen or fifteen and little else has interested me ever since. Since childhood as well, I have been interested in representing the world around me; specifically narrative situations that sum up the human condition.My work vacillates between these narrative images and those that are devoid of narrative and concerned with aesthetics.
Making his Mark by Felicia Feaster
Making art isn't supposed to be a risky business, but British artist Chris Pig says that on several occasions, his sketches have led to ugly confrontations.
Sitting in cafes in London or Spain , Pig generally works on three sketches at a time, turning his attention from one subject to the next when someone senses his gaze is lingering too long.
At times, his subjects have grown wary of his lingering appraisals and confronted him, suspecting something perverse and sexual in his intense concentration. Those people Pig chooses as his subjects may have good reason to feel uneasy, though not for the reasons they might suspect.
Pig has a gimlet-eyed, jaded knack for capturing the peculiar vanities and brutalities of the human animal.
The people eventually transposed from these sketches into linocuts are caught between the crosshairs of Pig's scathing, often misanthropic read on human specimens, such as the bald and pendulously gutted man sitting in a Spanish bar in "Name Your Price." Pig's prints are packed with information, from his elaborately detailed textures of woodwork, skin and other surfaces, to the telling gesture or physical feature that sets his psychological stage. In "Name Your Price," he conveys the man's aura of peacock macho vanity with his shirt provocatively unbuttoned and his Vienna sausage fingers laced with numerous gold rings gripping a ludicrously dainty wine glass.
A resident of Cordova , Spain , for the past four years, Pig's previous haunt was the London borough of Hackney's Murder Mile, where he watched assorted thug wars from his terrace above the street. Two of the most striking and memorable works in his show Jealousy, at Vinson Gallery, are portraits of career rabble-rousers. "Made in England " features a tattooed, shaved brute resting a baseball bat on his overinflated biceps. "Vigilante" features another street fighter with an oft-broken nose and a well-seasoned machete at the ready. Pig's best work is psychological and dark, with shades of Lucian Freud and the 18th-century satirist of human malfeasance William Hogarth. Pig's less appealing work fugues on art history convention: still life prints of artichokes, zaftig female nudes and two lovers locked in a stylized embrace.
The work is undeniably best when the slightly antiquated, ornate style of Pig's prints rubs up against his astute and humorous observations.
Outcasts come out of the dark; tiny vistas tower by Catherine Fox
It is fitting that British printmaker Chris pig works in black and white: The world he creates in his recent prints evokes film noir.
The linocuts at Vinson Gallery feature characters like the brazen gypsy who stares down the viewer in The Whore of Destiny; and the shadowy guy who keeps his cards and his gun on the table in Who Killed Sugarbaby?; The old soul in the romantic Papuna seems to be hiding a mysterious back story behind his careworn expression. There's even something slightly menacing about Pig's print of an artichoke.
Pig is a master of stagecraft. Sugarbaby plays homage to a murdered British anarchist, but the other characters are his fiction. The gypsy is a friend playing dress up, and Papuna is a Russian born musical instrument salesman in Decatur, whom Pig befriended at a bar.
He accentuates the drama through lighting and set design. In Sugarbaby,for example, he reduces the composition to simple shapes, largely circles and ovals. A single searing ceiling light illuminates the man and the table. The Whore of Destiny is a bravura orchestration of patterns.
The crisp lines, bottomless black planes and complex details in these prints demonstrate his technical command. His play with figure/ground recalls M.C. Escher who's prints are also on view in this group show, but is also related to the Moorish decorative elements he fell in love with in Cordoba , Spain.
Madame Emilia and the Crocodile
Madame Emilia never lies
except, naked, in the arms of her crocodile.
They lean on purple cushions while she plays
the concertina skin beneath his neck
with extended crimson nails.
Almost every day she burnishes
his scales so tenderly that people swear
they must be lovers. And she, a married woman;
shrill the widows at the well.
Madame Emilia and the crocodile
smile, share pomegranates.
In his stubby arms she dreams
of muddy rivers, how his lips would kiss
the throats of deer and goats and butterflies;
the rush of waterfall
and his claw railings holding her safe.
He bares fine, jigsaw teeth, wraps his tail
about her legs in that warm, reptilian way.
They puff a hookah in slow-motion, watch vapour
condense on blue-tiled walls.