The work of Montreal-based artist Chris Kline reflects on the history of painting—modernist abstraction, in particular—while offering a unique take on the medium’s formal and material vocabulary. Whether stretching chromatic variations of delicate fabric over a wooden support or painting nominal bands of nuanced colour on translucent poplin, Kline’s works are consistently pared down to an economical visual language, foregrounding the materiality and underlying structure of each work.
In Kline’s painting, colour is used much like the Colour Field artists of the 1960s, in which paint was often spread across or stained into the canvas to create areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. Yet, the precision of Kline’s craft draws us beyond the picture plane and into the space behind—the edges and boundaries of wooden supports and the hollow spaces created by them. Treating his paintings in this way, Kline leads us to ask: object or illusion? painting or sculpture? foreground or background?
At once peripheral and central to the works, Kline’s implication of the support calls to mind the notion of the parergon as put forward by Jacques Derrida:
parergon: neither work (ergon) nor outside the work [horsd’oeuvre], neither inside or outside, neither above nor below, it disconcerts any opposition but does not remain indeterminate and it gives rise to the work. (Derrida, The Truth in Painting, p. 9)
With his persistent, if subtle, reminder of the frame as an ever present component of the painting, a device simultaneously separating and conjoining, Kline ask us to consider the much broader and heavily laden frameworks through which we perceive, understand and adhere meaning to objects of art.
Space and surface, light and shadow fluidly meld in his works. In one series, a band of colour bisects the paintings to suggest a horizon line. In another, subtle chromatic variations between works stand in for the slow shift of light across space. Indeed, Kline’s use of such a constrained syntax addresses the limits of our mental and visual perception. Seen in the context of southern Alberta, this focus on the limits of vision is resonant not only with the expansive horizon of the Prairie landscape, but also the perceptual variables of atmosphere, weather and light.
Born in Ontario (1973), Chris Kline attended Queen’s University (B.A. Honors) and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He currently lives and works in Montreal. A semifinalist in the RBC Painting Prize, long-listed for the Sobey Art Award, his work is currently featured in the 2011 Quebec Triennial. Chris Kline is represented by La Galerie René Blouin in Montreal, and Diaz Contemporary in Toronto.
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