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Chris Fennell
brooklyn, NY
Neighborhood: Williamsburg


Chris Fennell / In No Particular Order

My drawings take place in time as well as in space. The work can be glacially slow, leaving lots of time to ruminate over seemingly small matters: tiny variances in color, density of spacing and pattern, or the minutiae of edge relationships as pieces stack one upon the other. They require patience, concentration and, occasionally, stamina. That said, I am not heavily invested in craft heroics. The meaning and integrity of my work is not tied to some notion of the nobility of interminable repetition or degree of difficulty. Results matter most to me, and the result I seek is a sense of pointillist diffusion-- a flickering, organic ebb and flow that allows the space to breathe without overwhelming the transparent nature of the layering. It takes a lot of glued paper to get there, but the meaning is found in the whole, not the parts.

“A basket-trap is for catching fish but once one has got the fish, one need think no more about the basket.”--Lao-Tzu

The labor-intensive aspect of my work makes it, by default, a study of the nature of time. Unlike plane geometry, where a dot represents a precise location in space, here it represents a unit of time, a measure of moments passing. Unlike the mathematical point, my points do not define a precise place, but conversely elide and elude boundaries, due to the visual effects of great abundance. The dots form organic swarms, lace-like veils, Moire patterns, and concentric arcs, arches and ovals—the singular unit is lost in an atmospheric haze, a kind of weather system that defines the light and movement in a piece.

Simplicity makes you look harder. I can describe a work this way: two bilaterally symmetrical arches rise up from the bottom edge of the work in initially equidistant segments that eventually join to become one upward-thrusting arch. The same action happens in reverse, from the top edge, but with a diffused haze of darkness beneath. This does describe in a literal way some of what transpires, but tells nothing to a prospective viewer about the subtle nuances that make it alive. The nuance of what you see is everything to me as an artist. Words can only run parallel to the experience of seeing, there is never real convergence.

I am not particularly interested in the capitol “S” Sublime. Implied infinities, obscurity, vastness, difficulty and magnificence do not move me. The scale and qualities of my work are human: its surface is akin to skin, its rhythms relate to the rise and fall of breaths. It is created in and meant to be viewed in close proximity. Sublimity implies an untouchable quality or remove. The backbone of my work is intimacy.

There is no definitive work-- what is most important is process. I find myself at the beginning or at the end, again and again.

“To assume that every recombination of elements is necessarily inferior to its original form is to assume that draft nine is necessarily inferior to draft H—for there can only be drafts. The concept of the ‘definitive text’ corresponds only to religion or exhaustion.” --Jorge Borges, “The Homeric Versions”

Limitations can be liberating. They inspire resourcefulness and cultivate deep attentiveness. Every difference makes a difference. The principal is similar to computing: A great density of information can be achieved with ones and zeros.

Often the initial impulse that seeds a work is an idea about language, situations, or conditions intersecting and influencing one another, as opposed to a concrete visual picture.

There are whole branches of mathematics devoted to structures so complex that they exist in multiple dimensions. There are conceived of as great gluts of equations, and are not comprehensible as objects with real-world dimensionality. When I conceive of my drawings, I have some sense of how three or four or five layers are going to interact, but they too are hard to visualize in their entirety. Processes are set in motion, unforeseen things occur, and something new is created. If I am not surprised at some point, something is probably wrong.

I am comfortable with ambiguity. I enjoy the combination of nuts-and-bolts process and extemporaneous improvisation. The best works are a map of processes, a record of the overlap and interplay of mind and hand. I try to follow instinctual choices as best as I can, they lead to the deeper places. The most important thing I have learned as an artist is when to stop.

“To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease” -- Lao-Tzu


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Elizabeth Ferrer speaking about some of the art (including mine) in the group show "Mystics: A Blessed rage For Order", at BRIC Rotunda gallery in March/April 2012


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Brooklyn, NY 11217


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