In the 11 years since New Yorker Christopher Davison graduated with an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in 2006, the artist has taken part in solo and group exhibitions across New York city and further afield, in Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, LA as well as cities across America. “I was born in the woods but raised near the ocean,” he tells us. “I currently live next to the highest natural point in Manhattan.” When he’s not busy making art, Chris teaches it, taking up posts as a part-time professor of art at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and Moore College of Art.
Chris’ style combines mystical, mythical and often dark subject matter (think skulls, severed hands, skeletons, genies, masks, decapitated heads, goblets, serpents, sailors, knives, women with multiple legs and a creature that seems like it’s crawled out from the pages of Where The Wild Things Are) with marks made in multiple mediums, from pastel to water colour to chalk, often overlaid with a collage quality. A folk-like charm can be found in many of his drawings which conjure up characters from the realm of sailor’s drinking stories or old wives tales.
“The first part of my process is to descend into the unconscious and encounter various aspects of the self, manifested as male and female figures or as various beasts and goblins,” Chris explains. “These projections of my psyche make up the subject matter that I render in paint and pencil. I also write down phrases that come to me in this altered state. In a way my artwork is an illustration of these mysterious bits of text. My litmus test for the authenticity of this experience is that the text or image must genuinely surprise me – it must feel wholly other (found as opposed to invented). Since I trust in the use of ego-dissolving ecstatic techniques to create work, the artistic process becomes a form of yoga. The state of ‘union’ is a primary goal with the act of drawing or painting serving as a vehicle for achieving this. Artists must transform body and mind into an instrument to be played upon by unknown psychic forces.”
On his ideas process, Chris explains: “Reading is an important tool, intimately connected to my ideas about art and life. The two authors who have had the biggest effect on me over the last few months have been Jung and Coomaraswamy. But over the last couple years I’ve been reading up on shamanism, Christian mystical saints, tantric art, gnosticism, alchemy, Islamic mystical poetry and Greek tragedy. Listening to lectures on YouTube by Alan Watts and Terrance McKenna further stimulate my thoughts on the creative process. Lastly, the ongoing conversation that I have with students plays another key role in shaping my ideas about art. I believe that these activities work collectively to enrich my artistic practice.”
This summer, from June to July of this year, Christopher will be joining Orkideh Torabi in a two-person show at the newly rebooted Horton Gallery in New York.
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