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Christopher Winter

Unnatural History

May 4 - June 30, 2012

Huxley’s Guide to Switzerland, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 51 ¼ x 90 ½ in (130 x 230 cm)

Christopher Winter on “Unnatural History” Fayette Hickox: What do you mean by “Unnatural History”? Christopher Winter: “Unnatural History” not only refers to the state of new paintings but also human nature itself. Are we natural? The effect I that of walking through an idyllic landscape after taking mind-altering about surrealism— the paintings are grounded in objective reality, with vivid colors.

the animals in the want to achieve is drugs. It’s not clear lines and

FH: What were your inspirations for the new paintings? If not surrealistic, they are mindbending. CW: Good. I’ve been looking into staged illusions from magicians and cheap tricks. Optical illusions play a great role in painting and I’ve been exploring how painting on a two-dimensional canvas affects perceptions. Altered states of perception interest me as well—both real and enhanced by chemicals. FH: Can you tell me how this shows up in the paintings? CW: In the painting “Huxley’s ‘Guide to Switzerland,’” an adolescent couple is levitating in the Swiss Alps, seemingly following the path of the river beneath them. The title is inspired by Aldous Huxley’s famous experiments with mescaline that he chronicles in his book “The Doors of Perception.” The painting “Comfortably Numb” refers to the Pink Floyd song with a similar theme.

FH: There are some fresh additions to your subject matter. While we still see children on the cusp of adolescence, there are bulldogs and rabbits—lots of them—and the creatures seem to be floating. CW: Rabbits—or, if you wish, hares—have turned up in art and literature in a number of guises. I’m on something of an art historical roller coaster ride with the hares, playing off Durer’s “Young Hare” from 1502, the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Joseph Beuys’s 1965 performance “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” and Jeff Koon’s “Rabbit” from 1986.

Manet the Magician, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 43 1/3 x 43 1/3 in (110 x 110 cm)

I wanted the hare, this overused art icon, to experience air travel in the petit bourgeois idyll of an unspoilt Alpine landscape. In the earlier uses of the hare I mentioned, the creatures don’t even get to hop: I allow them to fly. In a few of my paintings,

the rabbits are pulled out of hats, but more often they are simply in mid-air, undisturbed by their sudden ability to defy gravity. They are posed, their feet akimbo, as if juggled by an unseen source. In my painting “Hybrid I,” the hare becomes a laboratory experiment, a genetic aberration with new zebra markings. FH: These paintings are in one sense representational, and yet, and yet ... CW: In these works, I’m trying to create extreme moments. I’m relating the history and aesthetics of painting to Pop Art and comics, trying to challenge the audience in every respect. By inventing bizarre situations, I want to take representational painting to its limits—the borderland between dream and reality—mixing up art historical references with brazen naïveté. Christopher Winter (b. 1968) resides in Berlin. He is the cofounder of the artist group Special X with fellow artists Shiho Yuki and Eva Hauman to highlight the crisis points in the art world by subverting art world practices. A graduate of the Camberwell School of Art in London, his works have been shown in museums and galleries throughout Europe and in New York. His extensive retrospective solo exhibition “Wildlife” was exhibited at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum (REM) in Mannheim, Germany, in 2010. In September 2012, his “Gingerbread House” installation—a 14-foot-high replica of the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”— will shown at the Berlinische Galerie Museum. Christopher has curated exhibitions at Tape Gallery, Berlin, including 2010’s “Cover Up,” featuring Thorsten Brinkmann, Olaf Breuning, Marcel Dzama and Leigh Bowery.

If Things Get Real…, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 59 x 43 1/3 in (150 x 110 cm)

Interview with Christopher Winter  

Read this interview of the artist by Fayette Hickox about the inspiration behind the show 'Unnatural History.' Learn about Christopher Winte...