Chase Archer, a Brisbane-based artist, describes the work in his exhibition ‘sub-urban’ as painted collages inspired from a collection of iPhone images, childhood photographs, drawings, mass media and the historic art canon. Through these means, Archer explores the suburban condition – a condition which refers to personal experiences that are formed in an abstract way. “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.” (Chase Archer, 2017).
Recently, I spoke with Chase to discuss his solo exhibition ‘sub-urban’ (7th April – 29th April at Woolloongabba Art Gallery), to talk further about what led to the creation of his new work, how it differentiates from his previous work, and the central themes.
- What was your intended key purpose/meaning?
I don’t usually start a work with the intention of evoking any primary meaning. It’s an exploration of thoughts and a cathartic way of digesting ideas and themes which have been swimming around in my mind. I will often have certain images that I will take note of, photograph, draw etc. and then when I start a new piece I will go through this process of combining these images to create a certain tension between the elements. The results will often be layered with meaning, but these are obscured throughout the process. It is only at the end when I can sit back and assess the image as a finished piece that the ‘meaning’ will fully reveal itself. Which leads into your next question – the ‘framework’ that I refer to in the description of the exhibition is a collection of ideas, images etc. that are particular to myself and the way I experience life, we all understand things through a particular lens which is unique to ourselves as individuals, I just hope that there is a commonality that resonates with the viewer. I hope the images serve as a greater symbol beyond the immediate picture.
- In the artwork description it says, “These images provide the framework for scenes exploring the suburban condition”. Could you elaborate on what suburban condition means?
By suburban condition, I refer to a type of suburban malaise. A kind of nihilistic disaffection that can come from living in a suburban environment. You’re kind of in this purgatory where you don’t have the peace and space that you do rurally and you don’t have the proximity and anonymity of the ‘city’, you’re sort of stuck in this middle ground. A few of the paintings in the exhibition refer to places (i.e Old Coach Rd and Runcorn) I have previously lived. The central interior on Old Coach road is the living room of a townhouse I shared with my brother down the Coast for many years. It represents a vessel in which I encountered those years of my life. It is a symbol of a very particular experience to me. It’s an abstract idea that an interior can be, in all its blandness, a potent symbol of mediocrity.
- Is your exhibition meant to convey a feeling of nostalgia?
The intent was to combine imagery that functioned as a symbol which would portray or represent an idea/feeling to the viewer. Not in a specific literal way, but I wanted to have enough content to provide the foundations for an idea. This in some ways is reliant on nostalgia, but in a nonspecific way. The resulting artworks may present a different feeling to different people dependent on the person, their previous experiences etc. Works like Sippenhaft, reference a childhood photograph and engage in a dialogue on a few levels. The bottom image is clearly referencing an old photo, probably not too dissimilar from something most people of a similar upbringing would recognise, yet through the process of translating the photograph through paint, the image takes on new connotation of a ‘unique’ piece of art. Although this translation changes the ‘meaning’ of the image (reproducible versus unique, art versus photography etc.), the underlying symbolism of the photo remains the same. The inclusion of the lines coming from the boy on the rights eyes disrupts the picture plane and ties the image to the wooden support and by extension the work of ‘art’. By bringing this image into the wider picture plane it then establishes a dialogue with the print above. Without that, they may be interpreted as two independent images. The print above is based on a small section of an engraving of the Spanish Inquisition by Henry Duff Linton of two men being crucified. By placing that image with the two boys, a contrast and tension between the images begins. People now have a framework in which to construct meaning. I had the title Sippenhaft in my mind for some time, it wasn’t until I had finished the work that I realised this was the piece for it. Give it a google if you aren’t familiar with the term.
- How are these works in sub-urban different to what you have produced in the past?
These works have been created over the past 12 months so they are indicative of something I have been working on for some time. They differ from older paintings as I was primarily focused on portraiture for a number of years. I’ve always been a figure painter, yet these works have incorporated new architectural, mechanical elements as well.
In the final year of my fine art degree I started screen printing. I was fortunate enough to do a type of ‘internship’ for uni with a great artist called Samuel Tupou, who showed me the process of screen printing. I also began playing around with digital collages as a means of creating screen prints. The thought process behind creating a print as opposed to a painting is very different. Once I finished the degree I found that this process of creating prints had impacted the way in which I now approached painting. I would start to play around with the combination of images and the medial exchange present when you place two separate mediums in dialogue with one another. I still love portraiture, but am enjoying seeing how far you can strip something back while still maintaining the meaning of the image. As a younger painter, I fell into the trap of having to push things to a point of being overworked. I don’t struggle so much with that anymore, being content to leave things a little unfinished.
Interview conducted and written by Jazmin Duque
Image: Chase Archer, Big deal Warren, I wagged all of year ten (2016). Oil on wood, 60 x 90 cm.