LONDON, UK — Arts and culture journalist Felicity Carter speaks with Chris Rivers about his studio practice and artistic career
British artist, Chris Rivers has a very rock 'n' roll take on the traditional flower painting (and he depicts much more than that). After all, he was in a rock band and thought that was a done deal for the rest of his days. It wasn't until he was on a tour of the U.S. when he realized the art world was for him; he was sketching his drumsticks and immediately became hooked. Not long after this, he found himself leaving the music business and becoming a fully-fledged artist.
His style? Well, undoubtedly there's a calming quality to his pieces. Through the serene beauty, the self-taught artist is all about trail and error. He offers a journey of discovery, encouraging the viewer to engage with his artwork and let their imagination run free through his abstract depictions.
What is your first artistic memory?
I was always interested in drawing and painting when I was growing up, I come from a very creative family so anything creative was always supported growing up, which definitely makes a big difference to where you end up. At school, it was music and art which were my only real interests. It was more music, to be honest, I’m a rock drummer and after leaving school I went straight into bands, this is what I then did for the following 12 or 13 years at a professional level, it seems like a different life now but it was something that took me all around the world and certainly has a lot of stories. Lots of highs and lows!
It was during a tour of Canada in around 2014 that I started doodling with little sketches on broken drumheads and cymbals from the shows, just using sharpie pens at first. I started investing more time into art and before I knew it I was finding local art stores in whatever city we were playing a show in, then spending my time painting in the hotel room. So there was around a 12-year gap between school and start painting again!
How would you sum up your aesthetic?
I guess it’s kind of surrealistic meets abstract style, painted in an impressionistic way! That sounds like a mouthful, but I don’t really think about things like that, I literally just paint what I enjoy or what I feel inspired to paint at that moment. There are common themes such as big abstract backgrounds and tiny details. I enjoy playing around with the idea of contrasting different ideas, such as innocence contrasted with something darker, or big spaces contrasted with something small. It gives the work conflicting feelings.
Everything in the world is crazy and fast now, going into my studio feels like an escape from that, I'm sure that's reflected in the spacey and surrealistic element to my work.
Who or what has had the biggest impact on your work?
Probably my career change in the past few years, it’s something I never expected. The last few years have been a massive eye-opener for me, up until a few years ago I never really walked into an art gallery, my knowledge was limited but since discovering this path I’ve completely immersed myself in it. Also, when I came out of the music business there was certainly a fear of not knowing what else I would do other than paint! Luckily I’d already started gaining interest in my paintings and massively had the bug for it, so I just threw myself in at the deep end.
There was no point in doing it part-time so I just decided to call my self a professional artist from day one, nobody comes to you to make that choice for you, you’ve got to make that commitment yourself I think.
What do you want the viewer to feel?
If art is meant to be a reflection of the artist then I guess a sense of escapism, as that was one of the initial reasons I began painting. The urge to do something with complete freedom. Those feeling are still relevant now, but also like the simplicity of someone seeing a painting and their reaction being ‘oh, that’s a nice painting! I love that palette!’ If I get that initial response then they can get in closer to the paintings and start seeing more that going on. I'd also hope the viewer gets a feeling of energy, which is a reflection of how I paint and certain brushstrokes.
I don’t want my artwork to be a riddle if you like what you see and it takes your imagination somewhere, great. If not, no problem. If somebody asks where a painting comes from I’m happy to explain, but it's nice for the viewer to make there own interpretation of it, that's sometimes more special. Also, there's not always an explanation for a painting, sometimes 'what you see is what you get' is fine. The process of creating the work is great, but once it’s done I’m happy to let it be whatever you want it to be. One person might see petals floating in the breeze, the person next to them might see a flower that’s had a hand grenade thrown at it. That person might see a spaceman floating towards a planet, the other might see a spaceman lost in the void and relate it to a feeling of isolation. Make what you wish of it, just as you do when you listen to a song.