CHRIS KIENKE is a Foundations professor at Savannah College of Art and Design. Aside from teaching, Kienke is a internationally accepted artist producing a wide variety of works. He has produced work shown at the Sharjah International Art Biennial, the Telfair Museum, as well as numerous other locations around the world. His upcoming show, Gihon Fractured, at 2CarGarage opens Friday January 16th and runs through February 17th. The opening starts at 6:00 PM and will run until 8:00 PM at the galleries location on 10 East Broughton St.
You wouldn’t call your work representational?
Chris Kienke: It’s not representational because you’re not re-presenting something. So is it non-representational representation because you can find a lot of information in the work? It’s hard to label it. It has roots in surrealism and it has roots in abstract representationalism, but it’s not abstracting something that came directly from the real world. There are definitely tangible elements. Yet they’re not representing something you would see in your daily life.
How has your work changed over the years?
Chris Kienke: It isn’t as if there is a radical shift. If you looked at work I did ten years ago and the work your going to see in the exhibition you’d recognize my hand writing. The forms have become more refined or distilled. There was a lot of variety of things I used to use. Now, certain forms find themselves repeated in various positions throughout different paintings. The formats have changed a lot.
Has working in 2-D ever restricted your work?
Chris Kienke: Toward the end of my graduate school career I started finding that painting was a little bit lacking, in the fact that I couldn’t hold the thing I was making. In 2001, I spent some time working in glass. I was blowing some of the forms that you see, like these gourd-like shapes. Those forms could be just as painterly and the surfaces could be as distressed as the work you see here. It’s been in the past year to two years I have picked up painting full steam. I’ve never really stopped. This show is the first solo show I’ve done of paintings in eight years.
Explain the importance, to an artist, of developing a new visual language?
Chris Kienke: Where do I start? Desire, I guess. First, we have desire to do that. With painting in particular I can start to visualize the steps I’m about to take. Certain images come to mind, they reoccur. Also, because I have worked with the material for so long I just respond to it. There is a dialogue between the material and yourself and when it’s working well it’s a dialogue between equals. You’re listening to what the paint is doing. Temperature matters, humidity matters. The thing about it is that it can have a wonderful mishaps or accidents take place that you didn’t intend. I don’t really believe in accidents for more than a split second. As soon as you see it, it ceases to be an accident because you either decide to keep it or you decide it isn’t a success.
What is the importance of the Biblical term Gihon with your work?
Chris Kienke: It’s actually tied to a small mountain stream in northern Vermont. A year ago, I spent a month painting up there. I crossed over the Gihon River daily and it was winter. Every day it froze a little more, but it’s such a steep river the water runs under it. You can see some of that movement in the paintings. There were these stones and pebbles in the snow that would be covered then the snow would melt or fracture. Something was always different.
Does Savannah play a role in your work or is there a more global influence?
Chris Kienke: Savannah, not yet.
Down the road?
Chris Kienke: These things take time to sink in. It almost means you have to leave the place for it to influence you work. When you’re living here it’s hard to name what is so characteristic about Savannah. You could name all the tourist book things like the trees and moss, but that’s not what Savannah is about. It’s this crusty, gothic city that’s in a constant revised state of decay. That’s mainly the beauty of it. I don’t know if it’s the charm, but the beauty of it is that it’s constantly being repaired because it’s constantly falling apart.
Is there an underlying theme or message for this show?
Chris Kienke: The short answer is no. The longer answer is the prevailing theme how place does enter into the work. Just walking across that river everyday it just propelled me forward. I’m not trying to represent a landscape or a river like, “Oh I know that spot.” but it’s like an attempt to be bolder than that. It’s an experience about the temperature, smell, the speed, the tactility of it. It’s more than just a visual experience. cs
When: Through Feb. 17
Where: 2CarGarage Contemporary Art Gallery, 10 E. Broughton St.