Dripping paint is, understandably, the bane of many a painters’ existence. No matter how meticulous or precautious one is, all it takes is one fat, greasy slug of wayward paint to instantaneously lay months of work to waste. Swiss artist Chrissy Angliker was returning to fine art for the first time in six years when a rogue drip threatened to ruin a self-portrait. “I had such a big reaction to that drip, which I perceived as being a total mess up,” the pixieish 27-year-old explains, “and then I realized …wow…that I haven’t had such a big gut reaction to something since I don’t know when.” Now for every perfectly executed brushstroke Angliker makes, she creates a big old flagrant drip to counterbalance it. According to Angliker, each drip strives to further illustrate the unknown multitudes and vicissitudes of a subject. She explains, “I feel that it is important to include the “uncontrollable”, the things about the subject one doesn’t know and therefore can’t make any assumptions about.” The results are gorgeously emblematic and strangely psychic. Angliker sat down with Oakazine to talk about her philosophies as an artist and creator. Interview and more works after the jump. — Marlo Kronberg
Oakazine: Tell me a bit what you were like as a child. How did you first discover art?
Chrissy: I would get really sucked into nature. I was always in the woods catching and collecting stuff. I was into recreating nature or creating my own little worlds out of things I discovered out there. I got the most gratification out of making things — more than just playing with things. Everything pretty much evolved from there…
Oakazine: You are from Switzerland originally. Why did you move to America?
Chrissy: I was into art from a very young age. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, not many people around me were supportive. My teachers and friends’ parents would tell me that art is just a hobby and that I should pursue something worthwhile. My parents were the supportive ones and let me go. I left Switzerland when I was sixteen to go to an art high school outside of Boston. I remember being homesick but super happy.
Oakazine: What is the Swiss art scene like?
Chrissy: That’s a good question! I’m about to find out next year when I’m going to be in a show there in the fall. I was selected to be in a annual show featuring emerging Swiss artists. That will be the first time in many years that I will be sharing my art with Swiss people. That exhibit takes place in my home city, Winterthur, which I’m super excited about. One of the hardest things about moving to the states was that it got very hard to share my art with the place that first made me aware of things. I’m ready to reconnect and stay in touch — if Switzerland is down with that.
Oakazine: How does your cultural context effect your work?
Chrissy: Different places give me different inspiration. In Switzerland my work was usually a little bit on the safe side. As soon as I got to the States my paintings grew in size and became bolder and louder in their subject matter. It did feel like, “America, the land of the free” when I first crossed over.Nowadays I see Switzerland as the place were I go to refuel my energy and where I reflect on things that then turn into the inspiration I bring back to Brooklyn. If I don’t get to go to Switzerland then Maine and the Adirondacks will do the trick too. Brooklyn represents work for me. It’s where I get busy.
Oakazine: I know you went to design school. Do you think there’s a clear delineation between artist and designer?
Chrissy: In my opinion designers are creating for the real world and artists are creating about the real world. As a designer you have a lot of real world responsibilities like environment, safety, function etc. As an artist you might rub people the wrong way now and then…Both are creative fields of huge potential impact in very different ways. Artist don’t have the restraint of working with function. They have to create their own boundaries. To me art is about reflecting, processing and digesting the outside world by creating a homemade reality that points out the artist’s honest view of the whole situation. The main function that art carries for me is communication. Through art I get to try to share what I’m thinking and feeling and caring about at the time. Designers need to use their whole creativity and cleverness to make their product physically function and communicate through its form. A designer is always bound to reality. You can’t let go as much.
Oakazine: Do you think it’s possible to be one without the other?
Chrissy: (laughs) Yeah! You can be a designer without being an artist. You can be a very good designer without being an artist! My design parter, Daniel LiCalzi, of our design studio Design Since will give me the most hilarious crits on my paintings! And he is a sick designer. He is always looking for too much explanation and function in the paintings. I think the drips drive him crazy although he says he likes them. Before I started painting again I thought that I could replace art with design, but I had to realize that the two are not interchangeable. My art will influence my design and my design my art.
Oakazine: Tell me about how you got back into fine art and stumbled upon your current technique of dripping paint.
Chrissy: I started painting again after a six-year break, in the spring of 2008. At that point I was working in the design field for two and a half years. I was creating my own designs, which I enjoyed doing, but I felt that something was missing. I knew it was the painting. So I decided to go home for a month and see what was up in that department. It took me about a week to finally make myself set up the gear. It was scary. I was so long gone from this medium that I didn’t even know what colors I wanted to see and what marks I wanted to make. I didn’t even know what to paint about. So I figured to just start at the very beginning with a self-portrait. I picked up the paintbrush with black ink on it and brought it to the upright canvas to paint my eye ball. As I was painting the dot for the eyeball the biggest, blackest drip dripped down at the same time. Black on white, a total disaster. I had such a big reaction to that drip, which I perceived as being a total mess up. And then I realized that I haven’t had such a big gut reaction to something since I don’t know when. So I started thinking about what that drip really represented to me. Then I carefully started to work with the drips in the safety of my self-portrait. Once I got more comfortable with the technique I moved on to painting friends and then other subjects.
Oakazine: What is the philosophy behind your work?
Chrissy: With the “drip paintings” the focus lies in creating a balanced relationship between the controllable and uncontrollable. For every intentional mark, there follows a free-falling drip, challenging it. I’m searching for a sense of grace in the transition between these two opposing elements. The theme of this series arose from my feeling of life itself being a balance between control and chaos. As people, we have intentions, but must anticipate the intervention of outside forces beyond our power. In each portrait, extreme opposites are juxtaposed: ugly versus beautiful, sorrow versus elation, order versus disorder. Every living creature is made up of a unique mixture of opposites; therefore to honestly portray a subject, one must include the dark, the shadowed, in order to highlight the depth and beauty. The finished painting captures the relationship created by trying to balance these extremes to show a whole, and frank representation of the subject.
Oakazine: What is your favorite piece you’ve done?
Chrissy: It’s usually the most recent ones. Right now it’s the nude series of my friend Olivia at Fort Tilden. Also, the Chuck Close portrait and the abstract work.
Oakazine: Who are your top five favorite artists and why?
Chrissy: Top five is a little much..I usually have one at a time on my mind. I’ll give you three. I love Bram Bogart’s work! His work to me is the perfect balance between color, shape, two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality. I love how ridiculously bold his paintings are. He is the one on my mind. I love Alberto Giacometti’s late portrait paintings. What to me is so striking about those painting is that one can see the sculptors hand and mind in them. Chuck Close, ’cause he works like a passionate machine. He’s the master of breaking it down. I was very fortunate to be able to hang with him at his studio this summer and the man blew my mind with his work and incredible mind and sense of humor.
Oakazine: Spout off a random, free-form list of things that inspire you.
Chrissy: Nature, bodies of water, seasons, fishing, the relationships between people, certain people, music, old things, certain folk art, thinking really hard about stuff…
Oakazine: What’s the strangest material you’ve ever worked with?
Chrissy: Pine cones that were chewed up by squirrels. An air bubble in the form of a toad in a paved sidewalk. And a little bit of blood of course…
Oakazine: Tell me a bit about portrait painting. How do you think the drips supplement the illustration of the inner life of a subject?
Chrissy: The drips to me represent the things that exist about a subject that I don’t know enough about to depict. It’s the things I know are there, but I don’t want to make any assumptions about them. It’s kind of like the conscious and the subconsious. The parts of the painting that I’m responsible for are the things that I can see and feel about the subject. I also paint whatever I project onto them. If I only painted those things then I would end up with a painting of a shell. I feel that it is important to include the “uncontrollable” — the things about the subject one doesn’t know and therefore can’t make any assumptions about. The drips fill in the gaps that I can’t fill. For example, if I see the beauty in the subject and paint about that, the drips will fill in the ugliness that I can’t make myself focus on. The drips bring some reality and balance to the paintings. It’s not just me painting these images, it’s a collaboration between me and nature; gravity, the uncontrollable. I feel this way one gets a more honest representation of the subject.
Oakazine: What are you currently working on?
Chrissy: I’m planning on painting a nude of my sister next. I got some beautiful shots of her in Maine. She is on the list of people that inspire me.
Oakazine: Any upcoming shows?
Chrissy: I might be in a show on Halloween up in Connecticut. I’m still up in a group-show for the opening of the Amelia Hyde gallery in San Fran. I have the nudes and 2 other paintings up at my favorite coffee shop (Gimme Coffee on Lorimer in Brooklyn) through the month of September. Then the show in Switzerland next fall. There will be more shows coming up in San Fran next year. My Fort Green studio has also become a little gallery unto itself
Oakazine: Words of wisdom
Chrissy: Stay true and good shit will come to you.