Thursday, January 07, 2010

Conjuring Passion: Chris Fennell

[“Akupara” (2009). Acrylic, powdered pigment & paper collage on paper mounted on canvas. “Cataract” (2009). Acrylic, metallic glimmer & collage on paper mounted on canvas. “May You Live in Interesting Times” (2008). Acrylic, rice paper & paper collage on paper mounted on museum board. “Boom Times” (2009). Acrylic, glitter, & paper collage on paper mounted on museum board.]

Referencing nature, mathematics, architecture, and religious art, the organic and geometric patterns of Chris Fennell’s mixed media collages come alive in “In Little Place a Million”—Chris Fennell’s first solo exhibition at Newman Popiashvili Gallery. The title of the show—running through January 9, 2010—is a quote from the prologue of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” in which the chorus begs the indulgence of the audience that they might allow the small domain of the stage to stand metaphorically for larger ideas and events. Approximately written in 1599, “Henry V”—part of a tetralogy including Richard II, Henry IV (part 1), and Henry IV (part 2)—is based on the life of England’s King Henry V and focuses on events occurring immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War.

In Fennell’s work, abstraction’s revelatory and exploratory powers come together to conjure passion and the scope of such history implied by the show’s title. Accomplishing a synthesis of references, the abstraction of Fennell’s work goes beyond exploring those various entities and challenges the viewer as well. Fennell does this with his chosen medium of paper—cut in differently sized circles, lines, and rectangles that overlap in multiple layers. Created and meant to be viewed as an ensemble, Fennell conceives his works with a sense of how three or four or five layers will interact on the surface. Notwithstanding, the artist concedes inherent challenges in visualizing their entirety due to distortions created by intersecting layers.

With such processes set in motion, unforeseen things occur in creation of new works. Fennell welcomes this element of unpredictability: If he is not surprised at some point, something is probably wrong. Labor intensive, Fennell’s works take place both in space and over time. Unlike plane geometry, in which a dot represents a precise location in space, Fennell sees the repetitive dots in his works as capturing passing moments. Unlike mathematical points, Fennell’s dots elide and elude boundaries rather than defining precise places. He manages this in the plethora of his works’ visual effects. The spontaneity of Fennell’s works, coupled with the interplay—indeed dialogue—between textures and surfaces, result in tectonic movements between form and spirit allowing for larger existential questions.

Chris Fennell was recently featured in “Here and There,” a two-person exhibition at PS122. His work has also been shown at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art (Miami) and Alpan Gallery (Huntington).

In Little Place a Million: Chris Fennell
@ Newman Popiashvili Gallery
Through January 9, 2010
504 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011

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