Christopher Colville Statement

Artist Statement

The Dark Hours
This work, which started as an exploration pulling at the base elements of photographic medium, evolved to explore energy, fluid, motion, light, chaos, reactive materials and violence. The work in this exhibition follows this line but it is a reprieve from many of these endeavors, offering a move toward meditative simplicity. Seduced by the reduction of fire and chaos into a single line, a delineation, a separation and horizon that resonates with desert landscape, the storms that give pause and the western states that are on fire. This single line disrupting the traditional flat surface of the paper, pulls attention to its creation while opening the possibility of discovery through suggestion of depth. I followed these images, night after night repeating, refining, small explosions, meditating on a single evolving line until the suns reflection on the moon was too bright to work. As shadows grew around me I could once again sit back and enjoy the explosion of white in my conspirators blossoms and wait for the moon to wane into darkness.

Works of Fire
When I look into the night sky I am awestruck by the darkness that is the universe. As the sparse light of the stars descends, I am entangled in a state of wonder, searching for a better understanding of who I am and where I fit in to this world. Carl Sagan wrote, “…the universe is mainly made of nothing, something is the exception. Nothing is the rule. That darkness is commonplace; it is light that is the rarity.” This sense of wonder cast by light in the otherwise impenetrable darkness is a driving force behind this current work.

Christopher Colville Beyond Reckoning “The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.”
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
Throughout my career, I have harnessed energy, fluid, motion, light and the chaos of volatile reactions. This attempt to reconfigure the photographic medium, has aligned with my interest in the dual nature of creation and destruction. Recently however, my attention has been redirected as I try to comprehend our increasingly divided and violent American culture. Suspended in a state wonder and dread, my time in the landscape has shifted from a search for transformative experiences to a reckoning with the residue of American volatility.
Beyond Reckoning is the antiphon to a continuous cycle of violence imbedded in American culture, reflecting our polarized population. The images are made with targets I have collected from desert hillsides, abandoned by recreational shooters. The targets include commercially produced bulls-eyes, life size human forms, predators, mannequin heads, and wedding photographs as well as more divisive, crudely drawn political caricatures. These objects are cultural relics of a violent era, reduced to delicate lace by the onslaught of gunfire, revealing complex motives of hero fantasies, fear, frustration and hatred.
In the darkness of night I place the targets on gelatin silver paper and ignite measured portions of gunpowder on their surface. The explosive energy imprints the negative form of the target on the light sensitive paper while fire burns through the voids of bullet holes, scaring and pitting the surface of the print, creating luminous shadows whose clarity refute their violent creation. Forms rise from the flames as mythological apparitions haunting a landscape that holds a compressed history of violence. The targets are consumed in the process of creation but the images generated reveal triumphant revenant forms bearing the wounds of their creation.
This ongoing body of work has grown to include multi panel assailants, whose filmic repetition reference comic book cells, clustered installations of bulls-eye targets along with the human scale silhouettes titled “Citizens.” I have spent the last year and a half scouring the land surrounding my home, gathering objects and orchestrating nighttime interventions. Engulfed in billowing smoke, I sift through debris, repeating and refining small explosions, layering violence upon violence with the hope of finding clarity. The further I dive in to this work the more emotionally fraught it becomes and more determined I am to follow this path into uncharted territories.

Process Statement
The images are created outdoors by igniting a small portion of gunpowder on the surface of silver gelatin paper. In the resulting explosion, light and energy abrade and burn the surface while simultaneously exposing the light-sensitive silver emulsion. I loosely control the explosion by placing objects I have gathered in the field on the paper’s surface, but the results are often surprising and unpredictable as the explosive energy of gunpowder is the true generative force creating the image. I believe that by working in these ways, the images push the material and symbolic limitations of the medium. They turn the photograph inside out while creating something that is both serendipitous and elemental. The images are the residue of both creation and obliteration, generated from a single spark.

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