Playing with memory and emotion, Chase Archer assembles paintings from a bank of iPhone images, childhood photographs, drawings, mass media and the historic art canon to articulate the 'sub-urban' condition. Explaining his curious practice he wrote a process piece of Issue 38, tying in with his latest exhibition 'sub-urban' at Woolloongabba Art Gallery.
It is a wildly decadent and egotistical thing to do, expecting people to connect with these things that you’ve created. It’s a very personal process because you are the sole driver – there are no passengers with art. You’re spending all this time alone, working on manifestations of abstract ideas from your mind.
It’s a cathartic process to digest what’s around you, trying to glimmer some sense from it all. I’m a bit of a homebody and paint or draw most days. My wife is a writer, so we both have that understanding of one another’s process and the solitary nature of it. I think it’s something that some people find difficult to understand, as it can seem like a very antisocial life. But that’s the nature of the beast. It becomes all encompassing and takes over every waking hour.
That’s probably why it still comes as a bit of a shock when you realise art and painting are a very small piece of the world and not everyone is as consumed by it as you.
I feel like there will never be enough time to become as proficient as I want to be, and I get the guilts when I’m not working on something.
My work can be best described as painted collages. I assemble images from a bank of iPhone photos, snaps from my childhood, drawings, mass media and the historic art canon. These provide the springboard to combinations of painted scenes, which often evolve over time and are the result of layers of successes and failures.
I prefer working on board to canvas. Board gives a wonderful ability to erase, scrape back and re-approach a painting when things aren’t working out.
Painting is about striking that balance between vision and ability, and deciding what I’m willing to compromise on in a piece and what I’m not. It’s this push and pull of a work that keeps the process exciting.
I try to avoid working on a painting with the end picture clear in mind. It’s a lot more enjoyable building it up and having the breathing room to incorporate whatever is going on in my life at the time. While I don’t have a set formulaic way to approach a work, I usually begin with a few ideas jotted down in a notebook along with some rough thumbnail sketches. From there I take photos and collect images, and begin the process of drawing and collaging.
I’ll use studies to inform my larger pieces. These studies are fairly modest in size and are completed over the course of a week or two in short one- or two-hour sittings. Through these studies I build up an understanding of the subject and the approach – more or less what I can get away with and what I need to work further on. Without these studies, the more complex works turn into a living nightmare where I ask myself why I even paint at all.
Larger works such as ‘Big deal Warren, I wagged all of Year Ten’, took about seven weeks, working anywhere from five to 15 hours a week. This seems like an inordinate amount of time considering its size, but the nature of my process means that I’m working on things such as composition as I go. It’s a moving feast and I’ll routinely paint over a day’s work if something’s off. Anyone who has spent any time watching me paint would know how often I misplace my mahlstick too – this probably accounts for an hour of wasted time each session.
The painting ‘Home Renovator’ was an interesting piece because it went through more iterations than usual. I think the board itself has three previous paintings underneath layers of primer. The 80s bloke with the balaclava was based on an image from an old Australian Owner Builder magazine. I saw it in a secondhand bookstore and was drawn to the decadent drapery-type folds in his snappy jumper. The child precariously balanced in his arm was the cream. The main figure was painted over the course of one sitting and then left for a number of weeks until I had an idea of filling in the background with the interior of my family’s house in the Gold Coast hinterland. I thought it worked but my brother and wife quickly informed me it did not. The only part that made the cut is the remnants of the leather recliner chair and a glimpse of a figure behind the bucket guy up front. There is a real value to having people close to you who have no qualms in telling you something is no good.
With these works, the inter-relationship of the images become key. Sometimes you can say a lot with very few images, a kind of shorthand which can tap into a variety of memories and emotions. You miss the mark plenty, but when you create a work that people connect with then you know you’ve done it.
Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Qld
7 April – 29 April 2017
Rotary Art Spectacular
Central Plaza One, Brisbane
15-19 May, 2017
Courtesy the artist and photographer Mick Richards.