An artist who isn’t afraid of colour and whips up a mean vegan chocolate fudge cake (we know because he made one specially for us!) immediately has our attention. We’d like to introduce our next Artist in Focus, the delightful Christopher Jewitt!
Currently living and working in Melbourne, Christopher’s work and demeanour have created a definite buzz in the air at Modern Times. Painting predominantly on large canvases, which he builds himself, with an unabashed yet considered use of colour, negative space and form, these works promise to stop you in your tracks and make you want to look a little closer.
We spoke with Christopher about the inspiration behind this collection, his process and his everyday life.
Can you tell us a bit about what led you to being an artist?
My love for making things and my sensitivities.
What is the inspiration behind this collection of work and what do you hope people take away from it?
This collection is telling intimate stories about certain people and the lives they live. Each painting is a portrait of one or two or sometimes three people interacting with each other. The collection was inspired to find nuances of difference between people’s lives. Within all the excitement of colour and marks, a harmony can be reached and I’d like people to take that away from this collection.
Your work is beautifully-layered, and rich in colours and shapes. What does colour mean to you and how do you use it to communicate ideas in your work?
The same way faces can show our moods and feelings, a balance of colours can do the same in my paintings. I match a combination of colours to give a portrait particular temperament, like catching a friend in a certain mood.
Is it difficult to know when to stop or do you know intuitively when a piece is finished? And do you sometimes surprise yourself with the end result?
One of the strongest elements in my aesthetic is the distribution of negative and positive space. I hope to create an overall and balanced pattern in each painting. Understanding when this has been achieved sufficiently has become intuitive. I think with intuition the chance to be surprised can be limited. But there are exceptions and yes I am surprised by the end result of some paintings.
The same way faces can show our moods and feelings, a balance of colours can do the same in my paintings. ”
You’ve travelled a lot and completed several residencies around the world. How does travel and experiencing new places influence your work?
Before I became a painter I studied commercial photography majoring in photojournalism. I pursued this because I enjoy studying everyday life, and I still do. Travelling and experiencing new places helps to give me a broader understanding of what the human experience can be and in turn informs my work conceptually. I also believe it is very important to experience a wide variety of art, contemporary and historically, from different cultures. It has helped give me the chance to develop a richer aesthetic.
In what ways does your work challenge you or change the way you think?
Size. Recently the most challenging part of my practice has been to make smaller paintings. A few years ago the average size I worked with was no smaller than 180cm x 180cm. It has been very difficult downsizing and I am very happy to have achieved that. To give you a further example, over the past 4-5 years I have painted on over 250m of canvas. Because of their size most of these paintings have only been seen by a handful of friends and family then put into storage.
Are oils and acrylics your primary mediums or do you also experiment with others? If so what else do you enjoy using?
I have two jobs. I’m an artist and I’m a carpenter. These are not mutually exclusive. On the construction site I find many interesting materials and I have occasionally experimented with these in my studio.
One such material is triple expanding foam which is used to fill holes and give support to loose pipes. I’m fascinated by the tactile quality of this material. In previous works I have used this foam to build frames around paintings and create sculptural reliefs to accompany them.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m up between 5:30 and 6am. Carpentry and building from 7 till 3:30. Studio from 4 till 6, 7, 8 or until late and then home to cook.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
What are you listening to at the moment (music and/or podcast)?
Music: Mount Kimbie
Podcast: Under The Skin by Russell Brand.
What’s your signature dish?
Vegan chocolate fudge cake.
If you could purchase one thing for your home, and money was no object, what would it be?
A painting titled, The Dessert, Harmony In Red (The Red Room), by Henri Matisse.
Where to next on your travel destination wish list?