“I'm really making work that I want to see.”
Over his 30 year career the Canadian artist Chris Cran has covered a lot of ground ranging from portraiture to abstraction via still-lifes and landscapes all in the pursuit of avoiding boredom.
As he told art students at Calgary’s Central Memorial High School “And all that has to do with is pleasure in the studio. Pleasure of making work and never getting bored. So keeping it interesting for myself.”
In his late teens Cran took up painting and it was while working in the film industry he realized that he was more interested in creating his own ideas than realizing others.
As he told the Border Crossings magazine “When I was 19 a friend of mine encouraged me to try painting and I got hooked by the smell of turps. I had never been interested in making art when I was a kid. I was more interested in writing. But I had moved from Salmon Arm to Toronto and had started what I thought was going to be a career in film-making. I got a job as an assistant cameraman which I did for three years, but I realized if I was going to do something creative it wasn’t going to be with other people. All that time I was painting on my own as well.”
With further friendly encouragement Cran decided to attend art school when he was in his mid-twenties. During his second year at art school to help support his newly acquired family Cran started doing commissioned realist portraits rendered from projected photographs of his subjects.
“But when I got out of art college life overtook me and I had to get a job, which I did, reading electric meters for about four years. I tried to have a studio but it didn’t work. My marriage broke up and my wife moved down to the States with the kids and I was alone. At a certain point I decided I was trained to be an artist, so I better get on to it… I realized I could make paintings using that realist technique I had developed and finally understood,” he recalls.
For the next five years Cran made self-portraits that were idea driven but eventually he shifted his focus to stenciled works that focused on the more immediate result of the process.
As he has explained “The self-portraits which went from 1984 to 89, those paintings took me anywhere from two months to five months to make. And the kick for me was in the idea. Then I made the painting and I was satisfied in the end. But that's a long time to spend on paintings, maybe. For me it was. And then I went from doing that to paintings that had to be finished in one day. So at the end of the day I was pulling tape off, stenciling, and once that was done, bingo I got a painting done at the end of the day. And so the kick was not at the end of the day, at the end of the painting.”
This focus led Cran to plunder pop culture and develop the abstraction that has dominated his later works.
As he told the New York Times’ Kathryn Shattuck ''I'm just in the ideal situation. No painter's block, my time is my own. And it's rolling. That's when it gets fun.''.
A retrospective exhibition of his work Chris Cran: Sincerely Yours is currently on show at The National Gallery of Canada until the 5th of September.