The paintings of Christina Shurts explore the human condition. Her current series hones in on the condition of nostalgia, both for the recollected past and an idealized future. In these paintings images of peculiar spaces are homes to uncanny getaways. Flying ships, tree houses, and shacks with chandeliers are transformed into forgotten vacationlands. Time seems to fix around a pre- or post-Utopian event: perhaps after the dinner party or before the launch, some instance which encompasses a longing for another time. Shurts’ investigations utilize a trove of images from memory, film, personal photographs, imagined and even modern décor magazines to mine the philosophical issues to which nostalgic longing gives rise. What is nostalgia, and if it is a getaway or even just a daydream from the everyday, does a dark side to this longing creep through? Ultimately, the paintings aim to be a depot for these concerns while tackling the challenge of gooey paint balanced atop a canvas.
Christina Shurts’s exhibition “Luxury Soup” opens at RARE Gallery in New York March 17th, 2011 and runs through April 14th.
Glasschord Interview with Christina Shurts
As an artist based in Long Beach California, has the local geography and architecture had a significant influence in your choice of subject matter?
Without a doubt. The sprawl of L.A. and vastness of the O.C.’s beaches affect my perception of space since I navigate between them. I’m most interested in how space and structure may represent psychological states. Where better to work to fabricate this cove out of oil and pigment than the land of Hollywood and Disneyland?
There are direct references to “nostalgia” in your paintings, ie: Homes on Stilts, dismantled boardwalks, carnival tents, racetracks, and eerie beach-scapes. Can you elaborate on this theme?
Time seems to be a large influence on the most current works along with nostalgia. Nostalgia for what has passed or often nostalgia for what the future could promise. Also, I see all around lifestyle shifts and desire for escapes which offer more magical respite from the everyday. Even if its simply a bit of great fiction.
Does photography play an important role when you are planning a new painting?
And, what about found imagery?
For me, photography can captures visual representations of structure and space which I have a longing to create. With this more concrete realization of perhaps a desired lean of an edifice or light on the horizon within the photographs, I take great pleasure in the further combination with my trove of family photos and magazine images. These form into the getaways.
When do you like to work- early in the day or late at night?
Afternoon and evening I usually have a burst of creative energy. This being said I also work best if my dogs are exercised and my family is content.
Is natural light an important element in your preferred studio conditions?
Currently, I have a doorway and window open to the sunset. Northern light would be ideal but, what I have now can be stunning.
Are there any artists (of any genre) that have just recently had an influence on you?
Ingmar Bergman’s films are magic. The characters are psychologically complex and the places are illuminated so beautifully. To deal with the human condition in so masterful a way, fills me with awe.
Do you try to edit out the influence of other artists, or do you embrace the connection?
I make paintings to communicate what I may not fully express in other ways. Other artist’s influence on me seems to become another way for a dialogue. Or to aspire to a dialogue.
There is an interesting duality happening in your work; a warm glow of sunlight; bright,intense colors encompassing a landscape that seems to actually be dark and abandoned. Does this “balancing act” ever shift too far in one direction?
I desperately hope so. I aggressively push my work in directions that challenge me. Don’t let me be fully comfortable in my work because it delights me to hope to offer something real and raw and realize something unexpected.
In your most recent work (soon to be on display at Rare Gallery), The canvases feel open, The paint is used freely- plenty of drips and washes. Compared to earlier work,These paintings seem less fantastical- and now more ….”poetic”, and dream-like. Can you describe how your work has changed in the last year?
The earlier work is more fixed on the magnificent event. To imagine what happens before or after the structures balance fails or even how one would travel to arrive at these places were questions that arose in conversations with fellow artist, Nathan Huff. The most recent work often brings the viewer onto the structures to see what is inside them or offer the window seat.
“Where the Wild Ponies Are” looks like a particularly special piece- It leaves a lot to the imagination. Can you explain what the title is referring to?
Ultimately, all the work is an investigation of the human condition, with an emphasis on longing. This title is a combination of the experience at this image’s site combined with honoring Ingmar Bergman’s film entitled Wild Strawberries.