Points in Time: Chris Langlois
Painting landscape is about exploring our relationship with landscape and our experiences with it and what we take out of it.
I see my paintings as work that will wash over you - that it’s an emotional experience like music does.
And also the people who have seen my work always come up to me and say ‘this reminds me of such and such a place when I was a kid’ or ‘when I did this or when I did that and I really enjoy that it’s brought back a lot of memories’ and I think that’s one of the reasons I paint landscape is because it takes me to places where I suppose I feel nostalgic about or that are a memory or an experience. You know I suppose it touches on romanticism as well, you know we look at landscape and experience nature in its grandeur and how expansive and how we don’t have any power over it, it has power over us and it’s awe inspiring, it’s cinematic. They’re the elements I want to try and create in the works.
Landscape (Porphyry Point), no.1 2011
Landscape developed in my work. I did a lot of abstraction when I was at art school and I found that landscape just evolved out of what I was doing. I was gravitating towards it. I would see landscape elements as I worked. I always still like to throw abstraction into my work and some works even now are quite abstract.
Introducing photography into my work threw a lot of other elements into my practice that I found I could play with and give the work other dimensions. So when I’m outdoors photographing works and looking for images to paint I always try and find an image when I’m photographing that has elements of obscurity or elements of the limitations of photography.
I’m looking for an image that will present itself as being a painting and I think it’s one of those processes where you go into it with a sort of excitement because you don’t know what you are going to come up with.
I’ll play around with it on the computer and you know change some colour settings or composition and then I’ll print it and pin it on the wall and live with it for a while. A good image will scream out at me and I’ll want to paint it.
I feel that taking a photograph and then painting it adds a different element to it, it adds the element of the hand, the element of touch, the element of error because when you paint something it changes, it becomes something else.
With a painting the painting is of the hand, it has those lovely tactilities that no other medium really has.
I love paint, I mean I love the tactility of paint, that’s what really has drawn me a lot to painting is the feel of paint and how it handles and what it can do and its texture. It’s the stickiness and the slipperiness of paint when you’re using it.
The Darkwood series came about from going up to Kosciuszko National Park. At that stage a lot of the trees that had burnt in the fires I think around 2003 where still standing.
I was fascinated by them because there was this ghostliness about them.
With the windscreen wipers going they were gathering water so there’d be this tree going up and then all of a sudden it would go into this large area of water and completely become something entirely different so I started to playing with working on the distortions of these dead trees through water.
I thought it would be really nice to go back and revisit the big colour blending series, the out of focus series I did from about 2003 onwards.
What I tried to crack with those earlier works was a sense of space. There was no contradiction in the painting to create that sense of space, there was no sharp to make the image look blurry, there was no near to create the far. So I thought it would be nice to go back and try and do that, to create that contradiction that contrast in the image. And it was really a play on the modernist idea of trying to create a flat surface as a painting but at the same time creating a surface beneath that flat surface.
What I particularly like about this series is each of the water drops is an inverted landscape of what was behind but in focus. So each water drop is distorted quite severely some more than others so like this one here you can quite clearly see it's the image of what's behind but upside down.
They’re quite painterly so you can see there’s brush marks and stuff like that which differentiate that part of the image from the behind which is totally smooth and rendered without any brush marks whatsoever.
One of my continuing themes that I keep going back to is the idea of the horizon in my work. The horizon has always had a fascination for me because I think of it as a place that’s not real and even though that you are standing on a place that to somewhere is a horizon. For me the horizon symbolizes something that is a place you can never really reach and when you look at it it’s almost like it’s the edge of the world and that’s where the edge is and there’s the abyss on the other side or something like that.
And I also like the relationship between the landscape and the sky at that point and how everything is compressed at those points. As the sky gets closer and closer to the land there are more and more things, there’s more compressed information there and I love the tension between that point between those horizons so as it gets to the horizon there’s almost an infinite compression of information and I love that tension and I’ve been drawn back to the horizon time and time again because of those elements.
From a distance this painting does look like a realistic painting but when you get up close to it it’s very painterly, quite raw, there are certainly a lot of areas that seem to have detail that are just scribbles really, a lot of the watermarks here in the background are just really scribbles of darker tone and I just chose to leave it like that.
I learnt a lot by painting outdoors that I perhaps wouldn’t have learnt from just working inside.
From time to time I’ll pack the car up and go on a trip every now and then and travel around the countryside, driving around looking for an ideal place to paint.
You start to understand how light actually works in the environment and you understand that as Coriegal once said “there’s a little bit of colour from one thing in everything” so there’s always a bit of the colour of the landscape in the sky and there’s always a bit of the colour of the sky in the landscape.
I always like to try and create an illusion of space and I use a very limited palette, I don’t use many colours, I probably only use at any one time, five or six colours and I use those colours to float over one another so you get the warm colour coming through the cold colour on top. The cold colour pushes the image further back and the warm colour wants to come at you and they sort of fight against each other and you sort of get that illusion of space, there’s something floating close but further away, especially with translucent objects such as clouds or sky.
I think with painting landscape, you are not actually painting the object in the landscape you are actually painting the space and what happens to the light as it travels through that space.
When we look at a landscape we are actually looking at the sky, it’s just that the landscape happens to be on the other side of it and the further it goes back the more sky it has to go through until bleeds completely into the sky itself.
I’ve played with quite a few ideas over the last 10 years and I think this exhibition highlights that. I suppose over 20 years of painting now I think I’m starting to feel a lot more confident about what I do. The works that are included in the show I think are bodies of work which I think I have developed and that have been successful.