Studio visit – Christopher Ulivo – June 30th, 2010 – Brooklyn
Studio Fuse is happy to present a studio visit with Christopher Ulivo.
A selection From Christopher Ulivo’s Artist Statement:
“Although my paintings are thematically specific they avoid a sense of an internal ‘plot’ of events. The narratives of my paintings are therefore able to remain in some way irresolute. My aspiration is for the image to remain permanently open to possibility.
Each of my paintings tries to be one embodiment of some majestic spirit of adventure. I am a “would-be adventurer” that is, I would be if not for the daring and physical exertion required. Instead, I am a top-notch adventure enthusiast. Having a love of the subject but no first hand knowledge my treatment of adventure and exploration has more empathetic humor and awe rather than drama or conquest.”
In the year since we last visited Chistopher Ulivo’s studio his methods have not drastically changed but have become more finely honed. He has spent the year working almost exclusively in egg tempera, a process, which is centuries old and very labor intensive . This method of painting requires grinding one’s own pigment, preparing specially primed and sanded panels and an almost daily mixing of new paint, vehicle and medium. After exploring other paint mediums, Chris has found this labor of love has allowed him a specificity of color and surface unequalled.
While many aspects of the subject matter explored in Chris’ work remain akin to his previous work, he has changed many of his characters, introducing widely recognizable protagonists from classic monster movies and TV science fiction. Popular icons from decades past like The Mummy, Wrestler Gorgeous George and Elton John have largely replaced the 19th century and contemporary explorer/adventurer/contractor types we have seen in Chris’ prior paintings. In the new paintings characters are brought together from different sources for new narrative interplay. For example one new painting depicts Captain Kirk of Star Trek being electrocuted in a room that also holds an un-risen Frankenstein’s Monster.
To start the conversation, Chris invited the group’s opinions on how they engage with the subject matter in his new group of paintings. Points of view differed among participants as to the most effective way to narratively engage and guide an audience. It was noted that more apparent or more leading titling might be a way to invite further understanding of the paintings. Conversely, it was also mentioned that an over-dependency on titling could eclipse a more open understanding of the work. It was also questioned whether the introduction of recognizable characters invited access or a barrier to the narrative in each painting. A participant in the discussion described the work as “looking insular with a definite narrative yet maintaining a charming balance between camp and nostalgia without becoming cliché or snarky.”
At the end of critique, the group encouraged Christopher to talk more openly about his painting material process, since it is an integral part of his work and elevates his subject matter from boyhood daydreams of monsters and TV icons to a more serious contemporary realm. To further engage with his subject matter it was suggested that Christopher might want to explore writings on film theory and criticism, such as Michel Chion’s books on sound and vision.
–Amanda Lechner and Rachel Frank