steps towards (a simple) narrative art
Narrative art tells a story. Not all artists set out to create such “story-telling” work, but I admire those who do. Diego Rivera painted large murals that overwhelm the senses with details and with the presentation of a story as told from many angles. It’s almost guaranteed that no two viewers will walk away from a Rivera mural having the same interpretation. Mayan, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Northwestern and Native American cultures kept narrative art amongst them. Their art, ranging from simple images set into specific arrangements that told just the perception of a story, and all the way to detailed images arranged with care to tell a complex story, inspires me. The challenge, though, as an artist, is: “What’s the story of my people?” “How to create narrations of consumers, of environmental polluters, of wage slaves, of perpetual war-mongers through narrative art?” I’d like to be given a viaduct so I can set about creating a large narrative mural that tells the story of local people.
My first attempt at narrative art – at creating art that told a story – involved a drawing I completed with my wife, Amanda. We spent the better part of a winter passing the coldest nights on the living room floor, each working on different aspects of a large piece that not only told the story of the rise and fall of the celebrity in American culture, but also how that story was relished by an audience of insatiable viewers of the event. It turned out great, I built a frame for it and protected it behind glass, and the piece now hangs in our home.
Since that first collaboration, I’ve remained interested in attempted to include simply narratives into my art – and by simple, I mean creating paintings that use a few active elements to create the first beginnings of a story. In one piece I added sunspots above a tree, because I can recall how when, as a kid, I would tromp in the local wetlands on the hottest August days, and sweat would drip into my eyes, so that when I looked up, there would appear, through the beads of sweat, refracted light that always became a bunch of spots. Actually, I was fascinated by the effect of the spots, which is why I remember them.
My current interest in narrative art involves the use of objects represented either as they are for real – or reinterpreted as symbols – and then arranging these elements about a composition so that the “setting” of the piece helps establish a narrative, or simple story. One unseen event in this whole process is that I’m not taking active steps to show, place or sell the work, and it’s starting to build up, which is something I imagine the majority of artists face – that is, an excessive output of work equals the fact that all of the wall space in your home is eventually covered with your own work, and the closets get filled, as does the attic and garage. I think I would like it if one of the contemporarily coined “1 percent” discovers me, likes my work, likes the idea of owning an entire collection of art created by “a commoner” (me) and then sweeps all of my pieces away into his or her collection. Hey, I can dream aloud, right?
And if you haven’t checked out my super-awesome site at www.christophershoup.zenfolio.com please check it out. The resolution of the images there are outstanding.